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Trade unions to join stayaway in solidarity

’Mantoetse Maama

MASERU — Trade unions say although they do not support calls by public transport operators for taxi fare increases they will join their stayaway tomorrow to show solidarity.
The Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers Union (LECAWU), Factory Workers Union (FAWU), National Union of Textile Workers (NUTEX), United Textile Union (UNITE) and Lesotho Security Workers Union (LSWU) told a press conference on Friday that tomorrow they will support the three-day stayaway.
They said they would use the stayaway to press for an increase on their members’ wages, which they said were very poor.
The highest paid factory worker gets M916 a month.
Trade union leaders said they were expecting workers affiliated to them to coordinate the stayaway so that it will be effective.
A coalition of labour unions, taxi operators, Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Voice of the Voiceless Association (VOVA), and a group of concerned youth from political parties including a faction of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy is expected to take part in the stayaway.
Bahlokoana Lebakae, leader of UNITE, said assumptions that workers supported a taxi fare hike were wrong.
“We, textile workers, want a living wage and in June we wrote a letter to the employers proposing that they should increase our wages but up until today they have not done anything,” Lebakae said.
Lebakae said the unions proposed increment from the current M778 minimum wage to M2 020 per month.
He said even when they lowered their demand to M1 520 employers still did not want to listen.
Textile workers were not getting the same benefits as employees from other sectors in this country, he added.
A paid maternity leave for a textile worker is two weeks only while in other sectors a worker is paid for the three months that she spends at home.
“Their retirement package is a very small amount of money,” Lebakae said, adding: “We as textile workers want that to be changed.”
Occupational diseases were not compensated in the textile industry.
FAWU regional organiser, Seabata Likoti, said the M100 million set aside by government to bailout textile factories should be used to up the minimum wages.
Daniel Maraisane, secretary general for LECAWU, said the government used to dish out funds to
textile companies to help improve the workers’ standard of living.
“In the past some incentives were offered to factory employers but they were also meant to benefit the employees,” Maraisane said.
He also complained that other sectors increased their workers’ wages by 6.5 percent but the textile industry is refusing.

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