Civil servants’ strike looms

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’Marafaele Mohloboli | Bereng Mpaki

A CRIPPLING civil servants’ strike is looming. This after the coalition of Lesotho Public Employees (COLEPE) announced its intention to protest the government’s decision to offer civil servants a five percent salary increase in the 2022/23 financial year.

During the strike penned in for 24 March 2022, the public servants will hand over a petition to Speaker of the National Assembly, Sephiri Motanyane, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and Leader of the House and Deputy Prime Minister, Mathibeli Mokhothu.

The coalition is, however, yet to secure a permit from the Lesotho Mounted Police Services (LMPS) to hold the protest.

COLEPE comprises the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA), Lesotho Public Service Association (LEPSA), Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU), Lesotho Schools Principal’s Associations (LESPA), Qiloane Nursing Assistants Association (QINUASA), and the Lesotho Nurses Association (LNA).

LEPOSA’s acting secretary general, Inspector ‘Makatleho Mphetho, this week said they had resolved to strike following Mr Sophonea’s announcement of a five percent salary increment.

“We are not happy with what we have been given as per the budget speech and therefore demand a 25 percent raise, and it should be clear that it is either that or nothing,” Insp Mphetho said.

Prior to the tabling of the budget early this month, the public servants had demanded a 25 percent salary increase. The 22 February 2022 demand was made after the civil servants said they had learnt that the government intended not to award them any salary increases at all in the upcoming financial year.

They had given Dr Majoro 24 hours within which to address their petition in writing.

However, they were instead called in for a meeting with Dr Majoro’s representative, Finance Minister Thabo Sophonea. They claimed the meeting did not bear any fruit.

The civil servants said their morale had hit rock bottom.

“The past three years have been the hardest to us. In the midst of a myriad of challenges (sic), that befell the world, we have had to live with no increase with the understanding that our country has been economically hit hard too.

“However, with some government decisions, among others, the M5000 salary increase purported to be fuel for parliamentarians, our patience has worn thin,” Insp Mphetho said.

They thus want the 25 percent hike.

Despite the unions’ tough talk, it is highly unlikely that the government will find the funds to increase civil servants’ salaries by 25 percent.

The government has already been told by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to slash the public wage bill, undertake public financial management reform as well as implement the multi-sector reforms recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The IMF has also advised the government to award performance-based salary increments.

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