SOME employers are reportedly threatening to retrench workers if the government goes ahead to raise the minimum wage by nine percent for the 2017/18 financial year.
Negotiations involving workers, employers and government through the Wages Advisory Board (WAB) in April concluded with the parties agreeing on a seven percent increment for the 2017/18 financial year.
However, the Ministry of Labour and Employment has since informed workers’ and employers’ representatives it wants a nine percent increment for the year across the board.
Acting Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Employment ‘Mamohale Matsoso said this in a letter dated 26 April 2017.
“I wish to inform you that the Honorable Minister has instructed me to advise you that he has decided to adjust the minimum wage by nine percent across the board,” reads part of Ms Matsoso’s letter.
However, United Textile Employees (UNITE) secretary general Bahlakoana Lebakae who participated in the wage negotiations said it was unlikely that government would go ahead to gazette the proposed nine percent increment as there was pressure and resistance from some textile employers.
“The government has a challenge since some factory employers are not happy with the proposed nine percent increment which they say they cannot afford.
“They say they can only afford seven percent and they are threatening to retrench some workers if the nine percent is implemented. So they are holding the government at ransom,” he said in an interview with Lesotho Times this week.
Mr Lebakae also said that the letter from the ministry to the workers representatives informing them of the decision to increase the minimum wage by nine percent was significantly delayed.
He added that the delay enabled the factory employers to receive the information before the workers and thereafter they negotiated and agreed on a seven percent increment with their workers.
He said while the minister had the final say on the minimum wage issue, there could still be changes when the gazette was finally published.
“Last year we saw a similar thing where we had advised the minister to increase the minimum wage by 10 percent but in the end when the gazette was published it said 8 percent,” Mr Lebakae said.