ADIENT, a Maseru-based company that manufactures car seat covers has dismissed 250 workers for engaging in an unlawful strike to press for salary increments.
This is more than half of the company’s workforce which sources say is a staff complement of 540.
National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU) Secretary General Sam Mokhele this week told the Lesotho Times that the workers were caught by surprise when they were served with dismissal letters last Friday.
“The problem started on 13 September this year when the workers sent their representatives to negotiate for salary increments with the company’s management,” Mr Mokhele said.
He said all hell broke loose when the employees did not return to work after their lunch break as they wanted their employers to first of all discuss their concerns with them.
“The employer refused to address the workers and instead urged them to go back to work since their lunch break was over. The workers refused to go back to work and they were given a 15-minute ultimatum to do so.”
He said it was then that some workers gave in while others were locked outside their work station. He further said that the workers were later served with letters summoning them to a disciplinary hearing.
“The 250 workers were served with letters summoning them to a simultaneous hearing and before they knew it, they were served with the letters of dismissal.
“We will soon approach the Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) to intervene and if that doesn’t help we shall approach the Labour Court,” Mr Mokhele said.
Efforts by the Lesotho Times to contact Adient’s Human Resources Manager, Ms Mphamo Tente were unsuccessful as she did not answer her mobile phone or respond to text messages.
This week on Monday, the fired workers appealed the decision and gave their employer seven working days to respond.
Workers have generally been in a belligerent mood since 25 June this year, when thousands of workers converged at the Moshoeshoe 1 monument in Maseru where they delivered a petition to Prime Minister Thomas Thabane demanding salary increments for all workers.
The protestors, who comprised of factory employees, security guards and general workers from the retail and catering sector, want a 15 percent increment for all workers. They are also demanding a general minimum wage of M2000 for factory workers.
The workers also demanded that Dr Thabane sack Labour Minister, Keketso Rantšo, who they accused of neglecting their welfare concerns.
The workers subsequently staged violent protests in Thetsane and Maputsoe in August this year and they vandalised private property.
Standard Lesotho Bank in Maputsoe and some Chinese shops were stoned and damaged. In Thetsane, rowdy workers set up street barricades with rocks and burned tyres. They also stoned some Chinese-owned shops near Lifefo playground and attacked police officers with stones.
Civil servants including teachers and magistrates have also gone on strike this year to press for high wages and better working conditions.
The government has pleaded for patience, saying improving the workers’ salaries and working conditions is not a one-day event but a process which requires time and resources.