… matter belongs to labour court as employer/employee dispute
MASERU – The High Court has dismissed with costs an order to halt gazetting of on M2,000 minimum wage for factory workers.
The acting high court judge, Justice Moroke Mokhesi, on Friday afternoon made the short ruling immediately after hearing arguments by Lawyers for applicants and respondents. The decision overturned the order secured by the Association of Lesotho Employers and Business as well as the Lesotho Textile Exporters Association after they challenged the government’s decision of increasing factory workers minimum wage to M2,000 per month.
The order was issued on Sunday by Judge Ts’eliso Monaphathi after applicants (Association of employers and Lesotho Textiles Exporters) approached the court without the presence of the respondents.
When arguing their case and motivating why the court should dismiss the application, Advocate Christopher Lephuthing for the respondents told the court that it does not have the jurisdiction to hear the application as it deals with issues concerning the employers and employees and therefore should be dealt with by the Labour Court of Appeal.
Advocate Lephuthing explained that the applicants also had no right to approach the court in the first place and sought an order that prevented the government after it made its executive decision of increasing factory workers salaries.
He explained that applicants knew well which court they should approach hence appearing before Judge Keketso Moahloli who, because of some commitments, could not attend to them but advised them to furnish all respondents in the application with court papers and thereafter come back before him on Tuesday this week, but chose not to obey the Judge’s advice and instead went to the unsuspecting Judge Ts’eliso Monaphathi and sought an order without hearing the other side which they eventually got.
He also submitted that the high court ought not to have granted an order against respondents without hearing their side of the story and argued that trade unions representing factory workers as well as the wages advisory board ought to have been heard.
For the trade unions, Advocate Monaheng Rasekoai said the order the court had made have already negatively affected the unions who were surprisingly not cited in the case whereas they should have been cited and furnished with court papers as well as being heard by the court.
Advocate Rasekoai explained that applicants failed to disclose all material factors that could have helped the court and the Judge in making a decision about the application, an act which he said was a mistake on the part of the applicants.
Representing the applicants, Advocate Letuka Molati submitted that they only approached the court for an order not because they do not want factory workers salaries increased but because they wanted the government to be prevented from issuing a gazette regarding the salaries increment before the application could be finalised.
Advocate Molati explained that employers understand that employees’ salaries are low but argued that a balance has to be struck in order to ensure that no side is compromised. He said it would not be good for the government to win but see employers closing shop because they could not afford stated salaries.