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Project to strengthen labour inspections

by Lesotho Times


 PS of Labour and Employment Ministry Advocate Karabo Tlhoeli

PS of Labour and Employment Ministry Advocate Karabo Tlhoeli

THE project on Strengthening Labour Inspections in Lesotho was launched by the Minister of Labour and Employment on 30 September 2016. This project is funded by the United States Department of Labour while the International Labour Organization (ILO) provides technical support. The role of the Ministry of Labour and Employment is to implement the project over a two-year period commencing August 2016 to July 2018. If successfully implemented, the project will assist to strengthen inter-institutional collaboration between the labour inspection services and other government bodies and public institutions such as the Judiciary, Ministries of Police, Health, Education, Home Affairs, Mining and Environment etc.

It is imperative to highlight that our history as a country and the ILO dates far back as 1966 when Lesotho joined the organisation. By becoming a member state of the ILO, Lesotho fully committed to promote decent working conditions and occupational safety for all working women and men in Lesotho.

Since 1966, Lesotho has ratified 23 international labour conventions, of which 22 are in force, including all eight fundamental core conventions. By ratifying these conventions, the government of Lesotho has accepted the full responsibility to comply with provisions of the respective conventions and has also undertaken to protect, promote and provide the rights contained therein.

A lot can be discussed about the ratified conventions but for the purpose of this article, let me single out two of the conventions that have been ratified. They are Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81)concerning Labour Inspection in Industry and Commerce and C150 – Labour Administration Convention, 1978 (No. 150) concerning Labour Administration. Having ratified the above named conventions as a country, we further have an obligation to provide and maintain a system of labour inspection to secure compliance with legal provisions relating to conditions of work and the protection of workers in industrial and commercial workplaces. We also have to ensure the organisation and effective operation of a system of labour administration whose functions and responsibilities are well coordinated.

To date, the ILO supervisory bodies responsible for the monitoring of the application of ratified conventions have made observations relating to the application of the above-mentioned conventions. It is anticipated that the project will help address some of these observations such as establishment of enterprise registers that are liable to inspection containing data on the number and categories of men and women workers employed therein; development of a computerized labour inspection system to assist in developing an annual inspection report and professionalization of the labour inspectorate to mention just a few.

The labour inspectorate system is very important as it is one of the components that ensure improved governance. However, it is still a challenge for the ministry to adequately play its role as it is currently restricted to sectoral role play when it should be playing a national role. If we are to fully comply with our obligations, we have to move away from the dichotomised labour administration system in the private and public sector. The current dichotomy prevents us from fully complying with some of the ratified conventions and erodes the efforts being made in achieving improved governance. We are as a result often criticized for setting standards for the private sector from which we have exonerated ourselves.

The benefits of improved labour inspections can be summarised as follows:

  • Improved inspections and safe work management lead to a better quality product and higher productivity;
  • A decline in the number of accidents;
  • Increased motivation of the work force;

The labour inspection system is one of the most important institutions of governance of the labour market. It is essential that labour inspections systems, employers’ and workers’   organisations are better equipped to enhance workplace compliance with national labour legislation to promote respect for workers’ rights and contribute to improvement of working conditions and occupational safety and health. Thus, a well-functioning inspectorate is a sine qua non to the development of any country. Regrettably, in our case the labour inspectorate has been faced with challenges that compromised its effectiveness.

In summary, studies conducted in the past with the assistance of ILO have identified the following challenges facing labour inspection:

  • The need to organize training on interpretation of labour laws and systematic training in labour inspections on Occupational Safety and Health;
  • The need for efficient utilization and management of facilities in the districts to enable labour inspectors in Lesotho to be able to inspect more establishments, which is the primary function of labour inspectors;
  • The need for an updated enterprise register for enterprises that are liable to inspections to ensure universal coverage which is a cornerstone of ILO Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81);
  • The need for inspections to be quality inspections to ensure sustainability with greater supervision of the compliance regime, especially by the district heads of inspectors.
  • The need for improved cooperation and partnership with social partners for ensuring impact and efficiency of a labour inspection system;
  • The need for improved coordination and collaboration between the inspectorates within government – health, trade, mining, building.
  • The need for improved working conditions to avoid ethical problems that threaten the integrity and independence of staff and undermine the public protection function of labour inspectorate.
  • The need to expand into the informal sector as currently labour law enforcement is a particular challenge in the informal economy.

It is important to mention that there are three medium-term objectives which will contribute to the goal and long-term outcome:

  1. a) Improved management of the labour inspectorate,
  2. b) Improved methodology to conduct inspection visits and
  3. c) Improved partnerships with the labour administration, other public institutions and employers’ and workers’ organizations.

The long-term outcome of the project is that the labour inspection system in Lesotho, and the employers’ and workers’ organizations, will be better equipped to achieve workplace compliance with national labour laws.

The direct beneficiaries of the project are the Labour Inspectors and the Ministry management which will receive training and support provided by the project. Whilst the project’s Indirect Beneficiaries are employers since compliance with labour and Occupational Safety and Health standards can contribute towards reducing absenteeism, medical costs from accidents, injuries, diseases and death, low productivity and legal costs arising from labour disputes. Workers are the ultimate beneficiaries of the project, who will experience more effective protection of their rights and improved working conditions as a result of improved labour law compliance mechanisms.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment extends its appreciation to the United States Department of Labour for the continued support that it has provided to the Labour Inspectorate in Lesotho. We commit ourselves to work indefatigably towards the successful implementation of this project.

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