By ‘Mantoetse Maama
MASERU –– Over 140 employees at Crabtree factory this week downed tools demanding a 30 percent salary increase.
The factory, which started operating in Lesotho in 2007, produces electrical products such as sockets, switches and other allied goods. Angry employees on Tuesday sang and danced outside the factory, vowing to only return to work after management has made them a “good” offer.
One of the workers, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation, said it was strange that the lowest paid employee at the South African-owned firm earned a monthly salary of M1200, while the highest salary was at M1300.
According to the workers’ representative, Mantaote Sepirite, the factory staff have been waiting for a salary increment since 2012, following their proposal.
“Our salaries were only increased last October based on the government’s stipulated minimum wage,” Sepirite said.
“We find it ironic that management always commends us for a job well done, but then never shows this appreciation by improving our financial welfare. We feel unappreciated.”
A representative of the Factory Workers’ Union (FAWU), Tšeole Ramaliele, said after workers failed to reach an understanding with the employer, they took the salary dispute to the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) in 2012.
“The management was not willing to negotiate with the workers because our understanding was that they would make a counter-offer and not only increase the salaries based on the government’s stipulated minimum wage,” Ramaliele said.
He added after going through the DDPR process, the workers went to the Labour Court where, in January 2013, they were given the certificate that allowed them to go on strike.
“The workers could not immediately go on strike due to problems related to the regulations set on how the action was to be conducted,” he said.
“The DDPR had agreed with the employer that the workers should be locked out of the factory premises. As a result, we had to take the matter to the Appeal Labour Court, which recently instructed the DDPR to allow the strike within the factory premises.”
Ramaliele said despite the two-year salary battle, they were still willing to negotiate with the management.
“The 30-percent increase of the current salaries is M360. We are willing to return to the negotiating table,” Ramaliele said.
Efforts to get a comment from the company management were fruitless as they were said to be locked in a meeting.