Sandstone firm backtracks on wages

TEYATEYANENG — Workers at the Lesotho Sandstone Enterprises at Lekokoaneng in Berea this week accused management at the company of backtracking on their promise to increase their salaries.
The workers, who alleged they were being paid as little as 25 lisente to produce a single brick, downed tools last week demanding a hike on their wages and an improvement in their working conditions.
The workers resumed their strike action this week and were still not back at work yesterday.
Last week the department of labour in Berea intervened in the dispute and ruled that the workers be paid between M41 and M45 a day.
But the workers alleged this week that despite signing agreements with the management on the new wage structure they were still paid using the old rates last Saturday.
“The figures were still the same. We received M140. Others got M80, M90 and M100. But that was not what was agreed. We were expecting better salaries,” Petros Sootho, one of the workers said.
The workers said they felt they were taken for a ride and accused officers from the department of labour of being soft on their Chinese employers.
Another employee, Moshati Masupha said the meetings they have had with representatives from the department of labour had not been useful.
“The labour department officials are too soft on these Chinese. They have not even bothered to go around the compound to inspect and see what we mean when we say this is mining and we deserve better salaries,” Masupha said.
A representative from the labour department, Thabang Moeketsi, said he could not comment on the matter because he has not been given the mandate to do so.
“We are still to report back to the labour commissioner.
“I cannot say anything because I have not been given the authority to do so. But discussions are still continuing between the employers and employees at Lesotho Sandstone Enterprise,” Moeketsi told the Lesotho Times yesterday.
The company’s management refused to comment.
The workers said their employers had failed to address their grievances since the company which specialises in quarrying and cutting stone bricks began operations seven years ago.
“My salary has never been improved since I started working here,” Sootho said at the company’s premises on Tuesday.
“We are working hard here and we often put our lives on the line for this! We are doing mining and we should be paid as such,” he said.
Sekhulumi Mpopo, who also works as a machine operator, alleged that he was still to receive compensation after he lost his index finger in a work-related accident four years ago.
“I cut my finger in 2007 and up to now I have not been given any money for damages. I once asked the person who works as coordinator between the employers and the employees when I would get my money and he told me the bosses said they were not going give me any money,” Mpopo said.
He said he was told that the M500 he was given to consult the doctor was all he deserved.
“They had given me M250 so I could pay for the consultation costs at Berea government hospital. I was referred to Queen II hospital and they (employers) gave another me M250 for bus fare when I go for check-ups.”
The workers want management to provide them with protective gear and improve their wages.

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