Minister Rantṧo blasts factory owners
THE Minister of Labour and Employment, Keketso Rantṧo has accused the garment factory operators of failing to improve the working conditions at the factories thus exposing their workers to serious health risks.
Ms Rantṧo was speaking this week during her tour of Tai-yuan; Maseru Textiles and Nanabolela factories in Maseru.
This was her first visit to the factories since her appointment as the Labour Minister in July last year.
“During my tour, I have observed that there are health risks because of the non-availability of protective clothing such as nose-masks, ear plugs and other forms of work-wear,” Ms Rantṧo said.
“I am disappointed because I did not see any employee wearing a nose protective gear to avoid inhaling the dangerous chemicals found in the garments.
“Considering the nature of the work they do, I don’t see why they should not be having work-wear, afforded some warmth in winter and air conditioners in summer.”
She said it also came to her attention that there was no proper care for workers when they were sick.
“I hear the employers are quick to replace sick employees without any support through interventions such as medical insurance. I would like Basotho managers, especially in human resources to help fellow Basotho. Do not see turn a blind eye to exploitative conditions. The government can also help enforce the labour laws that seek to ensure every employee is treated fairly,” Ms Rantṧo said.
One of the workers at Nanabolela, ‘Mamotsieng Chakela, told the media that their employers were only concerned about workers meeting the set targets for huge profits, regardless of the hostile conditions.
“Our working conditions are terrible. We are not safe because we do not have nose protection, overalls and aprons. We also work very long hours in return for peanuts,” she said, adding that pregnant women were also not spared the hostile working conditions.
“Pregnant employees are not given light duties and they are also expected to meet the same targets as everybody else. If one reports an illness such as a headache, it takes hours before you are given painkillers. The words “salary increase” does not exist in our employers’ vocabulary.”
A general factory worker and a machine operator trainee who have been working for less than a year in Lesotho, each earn M1 238 per month while a sewing machine operator earns M1 331.
The general worker who has worked for over a year earns M1 372 while a machine operator earns M1 456.
Most factories in Lesotho ship their goods to America under the duty-free African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the rest are exported to South Africa.
Lesotho has 55 textile factories, of which, six are local-owned, 17 South African-owned. Eight are owned by the Chinese while 24 are owned by the Taiwanese.
The garment factories are the biggest employer in the country, after the government, with more than 40 000 employees.