RESTIVE nurses have given Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro a seven-day ultimatum to address their salary and other grievances failing which they will take “drastic measures” against his government.
Although the Lesotho Nurses Association (LNA) did not say what “drastic measures” they would take, some nurses who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity said they would embark on a go-slow strike action which could cripple the fight against the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and the health delivery system in general.
The LNA submitted the petition to Dr Majoro’s office on Tuesday but by yesterday, the premier had not yet responded.
The nurses first raised the demands for risk allowances and protective clothing for their work against the deadly Covid-19 in March this year.
The professionals want the risk allowances calculated at 30 percent of their gross salaries. They argue that they should be given the allowances and protective gear because they work around the clock with patients and therefore have higher chances of contracting the deadly virus also known as Covid-19.
They first made the demands shortly after then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane had announced that there would be a nationwide lockdown as part of efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19. The lockdown lasted from 30 March to 5 May 2020. To date, Lesotho has recorded four Covid-19 cases amid fears that infections could escalate due to the Kingdom’s proximity to and porous borders with South Africa which has the highest infections on the continent.
As of yesterday, South Africa had recorded about 53 000 Covid-19 infections and 1162 deaths. Three out of Lesotho’s four Covid-19 cases are of Lesotho nationals who illegally crossed back into the country from South Africa. The other case is that of a citizen who had been studying in Saudi Arabia.
The nurses and other health professionals went on a go slow at the beginning of April but abandoned the job action less than a week later after the then Thabane regime agreed to their demands.
But almost two months later, the government is yet to pay the risk allowances and provide enough protective clothing- something that has riled the nurses, forcing them to issue a fresh petition to Dr Majoro who succeeded Mr Thabane on 20 May 2020.
In their latest petition seen by the Lesotho Times this week, the nurses demand the urgent payment of risk allowances, payment of salaries for all nurses recently recruited to boost the fight against Covid-19, provision of protective clothing, food accommodation and transport for them and nursing assistants.
The nurses also want the government to establish a health commission to address human resource issues, improve the infrastructure at all health facilities in the country as well as engage them in decision making.
“We ask for a response and implementation because of the urgency of the grievances aforementioned… failure to implement will force nurses to take drastic measures,” the LNA states in its petition signed by its president, Raphael Tlali.
On Tuesday about 10 members of the LNA executive arrived at the Government Complex, the main seat of government, singing songs and holding placards demanding an audience with Dr Majoro. In one of their songs, they called for the praising of parents who had given birth to nurses.
Their tempers rose after they were denied entry into the premier’s offices by his security team. They were even told to return to their work stations because they had not approached the premier’s office the “right way”.
They, however, refused to leave. The LNA secretary general, Monica Mokhesi, was heard telling one of the security officers they would go on a fully fledged strike if they were dispersed without their grievances being addressed.
Ms Mokhesi and Mr Tlali were eventually allowed in to meet the Minister in the Prime Minister’s office, Kemiso Mosenene, and other government officials. Their meeting lasted until after 8pm. Mr Mosenene was not reachable on his mobile phone for comment.
However, Ms Mokhesi yesterday told this publication that they had been given evidence that the government has begun paying some of the nurses.
“We learned that the government has begun processing the salaries in batches and the first batch will soon get their salaries.
“We will push hard to ensure that the second batch is also paid and the government addresses our other concerns,” Ms Mokhesi said, adding they still expected the premier to address their concerns within the seven-day ultimatum.