Union fights for stranded factory workers



’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL) has requested the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) to help 350 workers who have been stranded since their clothing manufacturing company was burnt down in January this year.

According to IDUL deputy general secretary Seabata Likoti, the Maseru-based Golden Leaf Company had since made it clear it could not resuscitate operations without government assistance.

Mr Likoti said after this pronouncement, the union wrote to the LNDC for intervention after Golden Leaf management had allegedly failed to meet all the relevant stakeholders in this matter. LNDC is government’s parastatal tasked with implementing the country’s industrial development policies and promoting Lesotho as an attractive investment location for both foreign and indigenous investors.

Golden Leaf has also written to Trade and Industry Minister Joshua Setipa for financial assistance but the company management says the communication was not responded to.

Mr Likoti explained to the Lesotho Times: “The workers’ salaries amount to M257, 000. We request LNDC to assist workers get their salaries. The LNDC should pay these people as soon as yesterday and failure to do so, we shall be left with no option but to sue the corporation.”

According to Mr Likoti, the money is for the two weeks the workers were on duty in January before the fire destroyed their livelihoods.

Asked about the issue, Minister Setipa said: “The letter could have been addressed to me but I am not the right person to be contacted on factory matters. The letter was meant for LNDC as it is the one that deals with such issues.”

LNDC Industrial Relations Manager Sello Tšukulu was not readily available for comment while Golden Leaf Director, Gu Jing, said he was surprised that the government was quiet on the incident.

“I don’t know what the government is doing about this but they have not even told us the way forward. What is even more funny is the fact that the landlord does not even know our neighbour and yet the report on the fire clearly says it started in our neighbor’s warehouse. I would like to see the employees being paid but I need help from the government as the money I have is not enough. They worked for that money and are entitled to it,” said Mr Jing.

According to the report compiled by police Inspector ’Muso Lehlokoa, the fire started in  Teboho Construction (PTY) Ltd’s premises before spreading to Golden Leaf.

“I duly cite here that the fire outbreak that took place on the 18/01/2016 at Golden Leaf did not originate in their compartment but from the warehouse of Teboho Construction (PTY) Ltd then spread into the Golden Leaf factory,” reads the report.

The factory, the report adds, was burnt as a result of “abundant cooking appliances while in operation, poor housekeeping that leads to rapid fire spread…Residing in the workplace that the law forbids and unprofessional electrical installation made by the occupants…

“…Whatever they were cooking caught fire and the hanging electric wires on the walls also caught fire which led to the fire outage they experienced before they could realise that the kitchen was on fire.”

There was also no immediate comment from Teboho Construction (PTY) Ltd officials.

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