750 workers lose their jobs 

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. . . as jobs carnage continue in the textiles sector

Bereng Mpaki

HIPPO Knitting, a Taiwanese-owned company in Ha Hoohlo, Maseru, has begun retrenching 750 workers as it prepares to downsize operations at the end of the month.

The company which has already given employees notices of the impending job cuts, held a meeting with the workers and their representatives yesterday.

Efforts to obtain comment from the company management were futile as their phones rang unanswered.

However, Monaheng Mokaoane, the secretary general of the Lentsoe La Sechaba Workers Union (LESWU), said management had informed them of their intention to retrench 750 out of the company’s 900-strong workforce.

“The factory has given its workers retrenchment letters as it prepares to downsize its operations by month-end due to lack of purchase orders from its buyers,” Mr Mokaoane said in an interview.

“Only 150 workers will remain at the company next month and these will also be released at a later stage, by which time the company will cease operations altogether,” Mr Mokaoane added.

The job cuts at Hippo Knitting are set to swell the ranks of the unemployed in the country. They currently stand at over 300 000, according to Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro. This spells further doom to the economy which has already taken a huge hit from the Covid-19 induced slowdown in global business activity.

Hippo Knitting manufactures various knitted garments. Eight months ago in May 2021, the company was in the eye of the storm. This after several female employees alleged that they were routinely subjected to sexual abuse by their bosses.

The workers alleged that their underwear and vulvas were often exposed during routine daily searches by supervisors. One woman accused her male supervisor of attempting to pressure her into a sexual relationship, while three others alleged that male supervisors had sexually assaulted them.

The allegations subsequently cost the company its lucrative contract to supply products to its main client, Fabletics, a popular US athletic apparel line co-founded by famous American actress, Kate Hudson.

The loss of its main client is most likely the main reason for the looming retrenchments.

The retrenchments signal the continuation of the jobs haemorrhage which has taken a devasting toll on factory workers since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Only last month, leading textiles conglomerate, Nien Hsing Textiles Group, closed down its C&Y Garments subsidiary in Maseru, rendering 2700 workers jobless.

Three months before that, the Group had also closed its Nien Hsing International subsidiary, also in Maseru, sending home another 2700 workers.

Group general manager, Ricky Chang, blamed the Covid-19 induced slump in demand for their products for the lay-offs. All in all, the company laid off 5500 workers in 2021.

Before that in 2020, the Group had closed it Glory International subsidiary and laid off 1500 workers. This means that the company retrenched 7000 out of its 10 000- strong workforce in the period 2020 to 2021.

Trade and Industry Minister, Thabiso Molapo, referred all questions to the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC)- a parastatal tasked with investment promotion.

The LNDC public relations office had promised to call back but it had not done so at the time of going to print last night.

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