Reprieve for Loti Brick workers

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Bereng Mpaki

LOTI Brick workers who have been fighting management’s decision to put them on temporary lay-off last month, will on Monday return to work after an agreement between the two parties was reached this week.

The company issued letters of a five-week temporary lay-off to its workers on 18 June 2019 in an attempt to arrest its ballooning costs, while leaving only skeleton staff to carry on with the operations.

The workers who were asked to report back to work on 24 July, were also given half a month’s salary before the lay-off. However, they did not take the move lying down as they picketed for several weeks as the company’s gate demanding to be re-instated.

The picketing only stopped on Monday when their representatives agreed with management that they would return to work while the remaining half of their June salaries would be staggered over the next four months.

The agreement between the two parties was confirmed by Loti Brick managing director Mosuoe Mapetla and the Construction, Mining, Quarrying and Allied (CMQ) union, which represented the workers in the dispute.

“We have reached an agreement with the management which entails that workers will resume work on Monday,” CMQ secretary general Robert Mokhahlane told the Lesotho Times this week.

“The workers will work on a rotational basis, where half of the staff will report to work in one week while the other half rests and they will continue with the cycle the following week.

“We have also agreed that since the workers were not paid their full salaries, they will now be paid the remainder within the next four months as the company does not have the money.

“We are not totally happy with the deal but we are aware that the company is not in a good financial position at the moment and therefore we have tried to be lenient to help them get out of this precarious position.”

For his part, Mr Mapetla said: “Yes, we have agreed with the workers that next week half of the staff will come to work and the following week another half will come.”

The workers’ troubles with management started when they were called for a meeting by the Loti Brick management which, to their surprise, was allegedly attended by heavily armed police officers.

The workers refused to be part of the meeting as they felt unsafe. The meeting however, continued after the police officers left the room.

In that meeting, they were told by the management that the company owed M 5 million to the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) and only a temporary lay-off would help them settle their debts.

“We refused because on those terms, they were breaching the employer/employee’s contract because there is no section that says employees will not be paid. That is illegal,” Mr Mokhahlane said in an earlier interview with this publication.

He further said this comes at a time when they were still waiting for the ballot strike from the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolutions (DDPR) after filing a case that reached a deadlock when the employer had refused to give the workers a 10 percent increment they demanded. He said instead, the employer offered only two percent.

“We were only waiting for that ballot strike to be brought in by the DDPR when we received the news that workers are being sent home and we suspect this could be their plan to escape the ballot strike,” Mr Mokhahlane said.

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