Polihali strike suspended

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Bereng Mpaki

WORKERS at a road construction site at Polihali Dam under the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) yesterday agreed to end their three-day strike.

The workers were demanding a 6.5 percent salary hike stipulated in the 2022/23 minimum wage gazette.

They were also demanding meal and transport allowances, as well as protective clothing.

The workers, who are represented by Lesotho Workers’ Association (LEWA) in the dispute against their employer, HSP/ HSPY Joint Venture, had been on strike since Monday this week.

LEWA secretary general, Hlalefang Seoaholimo, yesterday told this publication that the workers and the joint venture had eventually reached an agreement to suspend the strike.

“We have agreed on a 6, 5 percent salary increase for all workers. This is what they were asking for. We have also agreed that the workers will be provided with protective clothing such as freezer suits by the employer. We have further agreed on the payment of overtime to the workers.

“The workers are very happy with the outcome of today’s talks and they have agreed to go back to work as we agreed with the employer,” Mr Seoaholimo said.

The workers had in March 2021 petitioned the Directorate on Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) to compel HSP/HSPY to address their demands. Among the issues the workers wanted addressed were salary increases based on the new minimum wage gazette, meals and transport allowances, and protective clothing.

The parties failed to reach a consensus through DDPR conciliation and the workers resolved to go on strike.

In September 2021, the two parties eventually reached an agreement to suspend the strike. Part of the agreement included an eight percent salary increase for the 2021/22 financial year. They also resolved to defer negotiations on meals and transport allowances for three weeks. While the salary increases and meals have since been effected, the issue of transport allowance remains unresolved.

The workers through LEWA on 7 July 2022 informed HSP/HSPY about their intention to resume their strike this week.

The HSP/ HSPY joint venture is made up of South African companies; Hillary Construction (Pty) Ltd, Polokwane Surfacing (Pty) Ltd, Ya Rena Civils (Pty) Ltd, and Lesotho-based Structuretone Construction (Pty) Ltd. The venture employees about 400 workers.

The venture had threatened to fire the striking workers if they did not go back to work by Tuesday this week.

“While we are committed to bargaining with your union representatives in good faith, you leave us with no option but to furnish you with a written ultimatum to stop your unprotected strike and return to work by 6:45 AM tomorrow, the 19th July 2022.

“A refusal to obey to this ultimatum and continuing to participate in the unprotected strike may place your job in jeopardy and you could face dismissal following disciplinary hearing.

“You are hereby issued with a written ultimatum to return to work as stipulated above. Should you fail to do so, disciplinary action will be taken against you which could result in your dismissal,” the letter from the employer reads.

But this was averted when the two parties reached an agreement.

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