SEVEN C&Y Textile Factory workers, who were fired early this month for allegedly removing management announcements from the company’s notice board, are accusing a senior member of the Factory Workers Union (FAWU) of betraying them and have vowed to continue fighting for their reinstatement.
C&Y is located in Tsetsane and part of Nien Hsing International Lesotho Group of Companies.
According to one of the sacked workers, Letlatse Lekhoana, they were suspended on 2 September and fired nine days later following a disciplinary hearing, which he says was not fair.
In addition, Mr Lekhoana is accusing the FAWU general secretary, Seabata Likoti, of allegedly receiving bribes from the C&Y management to dump them after they had taken their case to the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution ((DDPR).
Mr Lekhoana said: “We were suspended from work on 2 September 2014 after the management accused us the seven shop stewards or workers’ representatives, if you like, of removing some notices that had been displayed inside the factory.
“The notices were influencing workers to join an illegal strike, and we suspect they had been written by the management so that they would have an excuse to fire us.
“After we had removed the messages because we believed they were a set-up by the management, we were given suspension letters for removing company property.
“We were informed to come for a disciplinary hearing on 11 September, and fired the same day. The chairman of the board said according to the information he had received and what he had seen on videos taken by security cameras in the factory, and through his own judgment, he had concluded that we were in the wrong.
“We were given dismissal letters and some money for the few days we had worked. We were also given our leave days’ money which amounted to M1 700 each and most of us had been with the company since 2003. We appealed the case on 15 September at our workplace but the company advised us to go to the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR), which we have done.”
According to Mr Lekhoana, their problem with management started in June this year when workers asked for a 30 percent salary increase. The least-paid worker gets M900 a month.
“The problem began when we demanded a salary increase in June this year. We had asked for a 30 percent hike but management refused, until we reduced the request to nine percent. We had to go to the DDPR for mediation after negotiations with the management had failed.
“The management told the DDPR arbitrator that the company did not have the money, and we did not get the increment. The DDPR had promised to follow-up the case but we later received a call from the arbitrator that the case had been withdrawn by Likoti. This came as a surprise to us because this happened without our consent.
“We went to the FAWU office to look for Likoti but couldn’t get him and when we called him on his phone, he confirmed that he had withdrawn the case from the DDPR. We later heard rumours that some shop stewards were going to be fired, and sure enough, we were fired. But we not let this go; we will fight this until we win the case because we were unfairly dismissed.”
Contacted for comment, Likoti said allegations that he had been bribed to dump the workers were malicious and unfounded.
“The truth of the matter is during the course of our discussions, the DDPR managed to produce documentary proof that we did not have a 50 percent-plus-one membership of workers at C&Y, which meant we could not legally represent them. Knowing this, I as the secretary general of the union, had to withdraw the case because the DDPR would consider us liars and we would even be asked to pay the cost of the case.
“It’s true the workers were very angry and came to our offices to confront me but I was not at the office. They were so violent they even broke the office assets and threatened to beat me up if they ever found me. Later, the factory director wrote to us to terminate our contract with their employees and a few days later the employees terminated their contract with us. This issue that I was bribed to have the case withdrawn from the DDPR is not true at all because as I have explained, this is what happened and why I had to withdraw the case.”
Repeated efforts to get a comment from C&Y management and the DDPR were fruitless until the time of going to print late last night.