Teachers’ strike looms

Teachers’ strike looms

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Moorosi Tsiane

RESTIVE teachers have threatened to go on strike to force the government to implement a career and salary structure agreed by the two sides in 2019.

Over the past three years, teachers have embarked on several strikes to pressure the government to pay them salary arrears on their performance-based contracts dating back to 2009. They have also demanded payment of salaries commensurate with their academic and professional qualifications as well as the weeding out of ghost workers from the payroll, among other things.

In their previous job actions, the teachers united under the banner of three of their unions- the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) and the Lesotho School Principals Association (LeSPA).

This week, LAT president, Letsatsi Ntsibolane, told the Lesotho Times that their patience had worn thin due to the Ministry of Education and Training’s alleged failure to fulfil its pledge to implement the agreed 2019 career and salary structure that would among other things, ensure that teachers are paid salaries commensurate with their qualifications.

He said although the career and salary structure had been agreed in 2019, it was expected to be implemented in the 2020/21 academic year to give the government time to mobilise finances to pay them the new salaries since the new structure entailed an eight percent salary increment.

However, the state had reneged on its pledge, Mr Ntsibolane said.

He said they had since engaged fellow unions over the matter and they would not hesitate to strike if the government persisted in ignoring their demands.

“We had meetings with the government in 2019,” Mr Ntsibolane said in an interview.

“An agreement was reached and timeframes were set. It was agreed that a new career and salary structure would be implemented in the 2020/21 fiscal year. It was also agreed that teachers would be paid their salary arrears in respect of promotions and allowances for principals. Most of these have not been paid. It was also agreed that the government would pay the September 2019 salaries of teachers that had been stopped as punishment when they went on strike. Some of these teachers are yet to be paid to this day,” Mr Ntsibolane said.

He said the LAT national council met over the weekend and resolved to engage the LTTU and LeSPA to join them in a united front against the government.

He accused the Education and Training Minister, ‘Mamookho Phiri, of repeatedly shunning meetings with them to discuss their grievances.

“We have tried our best to engage all the government and other stakeholders including the Christian Council of Lesotho, Development for Peace Education, Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations and an inter-ministerial committee on teachers’ issues but to no avail.

“The minister of education doesn’t want to meet with us. But when push comes to shove, we will embark on an industrial action. We won’t rush this but do everything by the book.

“A strike will not be good as it will affect learners who have already had their learning disturbed by previous strikes and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“But our hand may be forced because we want the government to implement our agreement,” Mr Ntsibolane said.

Meanwhile, Ms Phiri yesterday said she was unable to comment on the matter as she had pressing commitments to attend to.

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