Unions in wrangle over Workers’ Day

MASERU — There is discord within Lesotho’s trade unions.

The leadership of the trade union movement is singing from different hymn books.

The Lesotho Congress for Democratic Unions (Lecodu) is leading the dissension.

Lecodu president, Mosaletsane Kulehile, on Monday told a press conference that his union had withdrawn from the Workers’ Day celebrations.

Kulehile said his union was not happy with the decision to invite political parties to the Workers’ Day commemoration this Saturday.

“We had agreed (as unions) that there would be no political parties that would be involved in Workers’ Day celebrations.

“And so we were surprised to learn that some political parties had been invited for the day,” Kulehile said.

According to a Workers’ Day schedule seen by the Lesotho Times, the trade unions have invited the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy party as well as South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party (ANC).

Also invited is the South African Communist Party (SACP).

The SACP, Cosatu and the ANC form South Africa’s ruling tripartite alliance.

Kulehile said the invitation extended to the LCD, ANC and SACP was a clear breach of an agreement signed by the trade unions in 2004 not to invite political parties to Workers’ Day functions.

He said Lecodu could not therefore be part of the celebrations under these circumstances.

“In a joint resolution between the trade union federations (we agreed) that during this celebration, political parties should not be invited,” Kulehile said.

“We are representing our members on the ground and they told us not to join in the celebrations because political parties have been invited on that day.”

Kulehile said workers were from different political parties and so it was not proper to invite representatives of political parties to such celebrations.

“We have to celebrate as one body representing the interests of all workers.

“Workers from different professions must be able to convene to address issues concerning themselves (regardless of political party affiliation),” he said.

Despite trade unions signing the agreement banning the participation of political parties from worker-organised events, there have been incidences in the past during which political parties hijacked workers’ gatherings to push their own agenda.

For instance, in 2005, Workers’ Day celebrations were marred when political parties hijacked the celebrations with some members chanting political slogans and songs.

Kulehile also expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the Cosatu representative who was in the country last week, Sam Mashinini, was from a regional office and not from the national office in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“We represent the interests of workers around the whole country at national level so we should communicate with the national office of Cosatu,” Kuleile said.

The decision to withdraw from the celebrations could seriously dent the Maseru celebrations as Lecodu is one of the biggest trade unions in Lesotho.

Lecodu represents seven trade unions and has a membership of about 11 000.

Lecodu’s decision to withdraw from the celebrations will also derail attempts by Lesotho’s trade unions to put up a united front.

This year’s celebrations are being held under the theme: deepen working class power to advance the struggle for decent work.

Last Tuesday, Lecodu, Cosatu, the Congress for Lesotho Trade Unions and the Lesotho Trade Union Congress said they were to hold joint celebrations to mark Workers’ Day at Sethaleng in Maseru.

But a day after the statement, Lecodu said it was withdrawing from the joint celebrations.

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