Factory workers on strike (file)

Trade unions take fight to ILO

  • 11 October, 2018

ITUMELENG KOLEILE MASERU – The trade unions still harbor unappeasable desire for minimum wage and payments of increased wages with arrears from as far back as April 1, 2018.

And not only are they threatening to take their next fight to court but they have also taken their dispute on minimum wage to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) asking it to intervene, according to the spokesperson of Worker’s Alternate, Mr. Bahlakoana Lebakae.

The United Textile Employees (UNITE), Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), National Union of Clothing and Textile Allied Workers Union (NACTWU) and Lentsoe La Sechaba (LSWU) have jointly filed a representation under Article 24 of the ILO Constitution and requested ILO to judge the ways in which Lesotho observes ILO Convention 26, which binds each member to create or maintain machinery whereby minimum rates of wages can be fixed for workers employed in certain of the trades or parts (and in particular in home working trades) in which no arrangements exist for the effective regulation of wages by collective agreement or otherwise and wages are exceptionally low.

Speaking at a press briefing in Maseru on Tuesday, Mr. Lebakae accused the government of failing to implement new minimum wages from as back as 2012, despite the agreement that there would be a minimum living wage of M2, 853. “It is very unfair that we are earning salaries that are way below the living wage,” he said.

He said the government had acted against the initial agreement which was to at least give M2000 as minimum wage across the board but somersaulted and introduced a mere M1696 as minimum wage.

On a second issue Mr. Lebakae said the government had also failed dismally to fulfil its promise and the agreement to increase workers’ wages with arrears from April 1, 2018. He said when the workers received their increased wages end of September, there were no back pays.
One of the joint unions representatives, Mr. Daniel Maraisane, accused the government for having acted against the law through the August government gazette on minimum wages which stated that the increment of wages would be effective from September yet the 2013/2014 gazette stipulates that the increment would be effective from April.

In a letter to the ILO, the trade unions made a reminder that despite the recommendation and agreement on minimum wage, the workers had to stop work and go on strike which lasted nine days. The letter says that the mobilization came at a greater cost to workers since they lost several days of pay. It says the government finally published the new minimum wage gazette for 2018/2019, however, the increases have not applied to all textile workers equally, nor have they been retroactive to April 1, as the minimum wage gazette of 2013/2014 had stipulated.

Asked for a comment on Tuesday, the minister for labour and employment, Mrs Keketso Rantso said she would not be able to comment as she was out of office and the country.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger