MASERU — The Council of the Lesotho College of Education (LCE) ordered the institution’s managemnent to restore order which was disrupted by a strike since last Friday as estranged staff members downed tools demanding a salary increase.
LCE Registrar, ‘Mapaolosi Lineo Lepota, told the Sunday Express that they were mandated to negotiate with the irate workers.
The college has a staff compliment of about 240, inclusive of senior management, administration and teaching staff.
Members of the Lesotho College of Education Staff Union (LECESU) which represents all the sectors of the employees at the college embarked on a strike which began last Friday and will end on January 7 next year. LECESU Secretary-General, Mpholo Leoisa, said their strike is intermittent, meaning that it will be carried out at two-week intervals.
“In other words, we’ll go for two weeks, come back and work for seven days during which time we’ll serve the management with a notice for another edition of the strike until we get what we want,” Leoisa said.
The employees and members of LECESU want a 10 percent inflation-adjustment to their salaries in the new fiscal year which begins in April next year ending in March 2015. They want the institute’s management to make a written declaration committing to make the adjustment.
“We have not received the inflationary adjustment since last year’s five percent, which means we are living on last year’s increase this year,” Leoisa said.
Meanwhile, the institution’s management said it was not in a position to make promises as sought by LECESU since they had not yet made a formal request for the additional funding to cater for the striking workers’ demands.
LCE Rector John Oliphant told a media briefing this week that they had told the union that although they believed that there was need to adjust the employees’ salaries to cushion them against inflation, they (as management) were not yet in a position to make that promise.
“We have since made a requisition for that but we are still awaiting a response from the government,” Oliphant said.
The institute depends on funding which comes in the form of government grants and fees – most of which are also paid by government through sponsorship from the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS).
Oliphant said the institute had made recommendations for fees to be increased and was still awaiting approval by government adding “should all go well, then the salary adjustments sought will be addressed”.
He said the strike was unprecedented.
This week when the Sunday Express visited the institute, it was unusually quiet with barely any activities in sight.
The school’s vehicles were parked while the offices were mostly vacant with students roaming the campus idly.
Most of the employees present were chanting and singing protest songs outside the premises. They were however far from the main entrance to the college as per the legal requirements for the strike.
The strike began on the day that was supposed to have been deadline for the submission of first year students’ examination results by the lecturers in preparation for the usual announcement of results around May.
“However, this time around that will not happen unless we are heard and are given what we ask for,” Leoisa said.
According to Leoisa, a lot of activities on the college’s calendar will be affected by the strike.
“The results will not be released in time next year. There will be no special examinations this year, neither will there be any supplementary examinations,” he said.
LECESU said it is ready to engage the management at any time to stop the strike and continue with the normal operations of the college.
These estranged employees said that the management are failing to hear them out because they (management) do not feel the pinch of the inflation “since their packages are supported by intrinsic benefits”.
“The fact that they do not have to pay for their very basic needs such as fuel, electricity and rent means what we are saying to them bears no substance at all,” Leoisa said.
Oliphant said he had told the college’s employees that their plight was being considered but that he was not in a position to give them what they want yet, adding that he had pleaded with them not to strike.
“We have pleaded with them not to go on strike, we also assure them that should they reconsider their position, our doors remain open,” Oliphant said.
He said that the employees have been told that a “no work no pay” policy would be effected meaning that anyone who does not show up to work should not expect payment. He said that for the duration of the strike there would be attendance registration forms to be filled by those who report for work. Only up to about 30 employees (including senior management) had filled the attendance forms when the paper visited the institution.
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