THREE teachers’ unions say their members will go on strike to press the government to grant them salary increments and review their working conditions.
The three unions are the Lesotho Teacher’s Association (LAT), Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) and Lesotho Schools Principals Association (LeSPA.
Their impending industrial action follows their successful appeal against the Directorate of Disputes Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) which had declined to issue them a certificate of approval for the strike.
The DDPR had declined to issue the certificate on the grounds that unions constituted a minority of the country’s teachers and therefore could not engage in a strike.
But Labour Court judge, Justice Keketso Moahloli, ruled that the unions had the right to strike. Justice Moahloli ruled that the DDPR had no power to determine whether or not the teachers could strike and sent them back to the DDPR to complete the process which would clear them to proceed with the industrial action.
In the aftermath of the Court of Appeal ruling, members of the unions gathered at the at the Moshoeshoe 1 monument in Maseru where they were addressed by one of their leaders, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, who said there was “no going back on the strike”.
Mr Ntsibolane said the strike would begin on Monday upon receipt of the certificate of approval from the DDPR.
“When we got to the DDPR today, we found out that we had been allocated a new arbitrator who had to be brought to speed about our matter but the good thing is she said that she will finalise our case on Monday.
“With your permission and guidance of our lawyer, our matters will be finalised on Monday (tomorrow) as we have already tabled our grievances and there is nothing much left to be discussed. There is no going back on the strike as we are confident that we will get our certificate on Monday,” Mr Ntsibolane said.
He further told the Sunday Express on the side lines of the Thursday gathering that they were striking because they had run out of patience with the Education and Training ministry. He said they had waited on their employer for far too long without any tangible results.
“Since early last year we have been engaged in talks with government to address our grievances but up to now there has not been any progress. There have only been tactical games by the Ministry of Education. It is clear that we will not reach a consensus by Monday. It is impossible to reach a solution in a day when we failed to do so over a year.
“We are confident of getting our certificate on Monday when we meet the DDPR at 2pm. When that happens, we will declare a strike. It will remain for us to announce the exact dates for the strike.
“We have been patient with the Ministry of Education for a long time and we believe getting the certificate will compel them to address our issues. We are fighting to liberate the education of this country.”
On his part, the unions’ lawyer, Advocate Martin Mohanoe, said he did not anticipate any delays, adding that they would not hesitate to sue the DDPR for contempt of court if the certificate to strike was not granted on Monday.
“When we first met with the DDPR, the then arbitrator said that we represented were a minority of the teachers and therefore we had no right to strike. We went to the Labour Court which ruled that we had a right to strike.
“We held back on the strike because the (Education) ministry seemed ready to address our issues and called our leadership to sign an agreement that we would not strike. They (ministry) reneged on the agreement to address our concerns and approached the Labour Appeal Court to compel us to call off the strike but Justice Moahloli rejected their appeal.
“The judgement said that the DDPR only had the jurisdiction to finalise the conciliation process but not to determine whether or not we could go on a strike.
“They (Education Ministry) should know that we will not agree to anything they propose on Monday. We only want the certificate so that we can declare a strike and have government in a corner. The Labour Court ruled that we should be given the certificate and if the DDPR does not give it to us, we will sue them for contempt of court,” Adv Mohanoe said.
The teachers want the government to pay them salary arrears on their performance-based contracts dating back to 2009. They also want the government to pay salaries that are commensurate with their academic and professional qualifications as well as weed out ghost workers from the payroll.
They even want Minister Rapapa to sack the Chief Executive Officer of the Teaching Service Department, ’Maselloane Sehlabi, who they accuse of maladministration and being a stumbling block to negotiations between them and the government.