Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

Workers need a better deal

ON Tuesday thousands of Basotho workers joined the rest of the world in celebrating Workers’ Day, a day set aside to mark the heroic struggles of the working class.
But for the majority of workers in Lesotho the day passed without any fanfare.
It was yet another day they said indeed confirmed their fears that worker interests had been betrayed.
Workers who spoke to local media said they expected little change in their welfare in spite of outlandish promises by politicians to improve their lot if they win this month’s election.
There could be no harsher indictment of the government’s performance over the past five years.
This year’s Workers’ Day celebrations were significant as they came against the background of serious campaigning by political parties ahead of a general election on May 26.
Workers have a rare opportunity to express their feelings through the ballot.
This is their chance to put in place a government that shares their aspirations.
We are not surprised that there has been a stampede by politicians all seeking to capture this key constituency.
Take for example the textile sector.
With 35 000 workers, it is the second biggest employer in Lesotho after the civil service.
But it is also one that is notorious for paying poor wages. The lowest paid worker in the textile sector earns a measly M970 a month, while workers’ unions say the minimum wage should be at least M2 020 a month.
Working conditions are also poor.
We find it difficult to explain why conditions in the textile sector have remained poor for so long.
Does the fault lie with impotent trade unions who have failed to organise to stand up for their rights?
Or does the blame lie with a government whose interests are so detached from those of the worker?
May 26 provides an opportunity to the worker to tell those in power what he really thinks about them.
This is their chance to punish the authors of their misery.
While the government has done something over the past five years, it is clear judging from the cries of the workers that it has not been enough. We believe a government should listen to the cries of its own people.
MPs and government ministers should not pretend that they were not aware of the terrible conditions in the factories.
Feigning ignorance about the plight of factory workers would be the height of duplicity.
The government’s commitment must go beyond mere electoral promises to do something about these grievances after the elections.
It must set an acceptable minimum wage and put a stop to the “starvation wages” that we have come to associate with these “sweat shops”.
The government must improve its surveillance and monitoring systems to ensure employers adhere to minimum safety standards and regulations.
In its quest to promote foreign investment the government must remain vigilant in seeking to balance the interests of the investor with those of the worker.
The present status quo, we are afraid, is heavily skewed in favour of the foreign investor.
The government must demand a realignment of the scales. Basotho workers must get an equal share of the cake.
Most importantly, we think the time has come for the government to set up a national social security scheme for all workers in Lesotho.
Such a scheme is critical particularly for workers who do not have pension schemes. This will give workers something to fall back on when they retire.
Lesotho needs not reinvent the wheel regarding the mechanics of running such a scheme.
Neighbouring countries have such schemes and they have proved quite handy in rallying national savings and cushioning workers in their old age.
Post-May 26 we expect the new government to do more for the struggling worker.

Comments are closed.