Workers see red over ‘paltry’ pay increase

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Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

TEYATEYANENG-Workers attending May Day commemorations at Teyateyaneng LECSA Primary School on Monday warned government would see their “true colours” if they do not get the 10 percent salary increase recommended by the Wages Advisory Board.

The government, through Labour and Employment Minister Thulo Mahlakeng, has approved an eight-percent minimum wage increase for workers in the private sector for the 2016/2017 financial year against 10 percent proposed by the Board.

The Board comprises 12 trade unionists and 10 representatives from employers’ associations. The Ministry’s Principal Secretary and Labour Commissioner are chairperson and secretary of the Board, respectively.

Home Affairs Minister Lekhetho Rakuoane, Health Minister ’Molotsi Monyamane, Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu and Education Deputy Minister Thabang Kholumo, were at Monday’s commemoration and came under fire from the workers who accused the government of being “inconsiderate” by “unilaterally” approving the eight-percent across-the-board increase.

Advocate Rakuoane, who addressed the workers on behalf of Labour and Employment Minister Thulo Mahlakeng, said the increase would be effective from 1 April.

However, the minister said he was sorry the increase had not reflected in the workers’ salaries last month due to a delay in publishing a government gazette stipulating the new wages but was continuously interrupted as the crowd demanded to know by how much the salaries had been increased.

“A gazette regarding new minimum wages for the current financial year was published late due to unavoidable circumstances and we are sorry for that. However, that publication was made on Friday, 29 April 2016. Members of the Wages Advisory Board know about the challenges we went through and which contributed to the delay. To avoid confusion, please be aware that the increased wages start with effect from 1 April 2016,” the minister said.

However, the workers were more interested in knowing the increase and kept  interrupting Advocate Rakuoane in his speech, shouting: “We demand 10 percent, nothing else!”

But the minister would not reveal by how much the salaries had been increased, and simply said: “I hear your concerns. This is straight talk, but I would like to proceed to the next item…”

The workers also held placards with messages demanding the 10 percent pay hike.

Lesotho Labour Council deputy general secretary, Seabata Likoti, also addressed the ministers regarding the workers’ concerns during Monday’s gathering.

“Dear honourable ministers, we would like to tell you today that if our beloved coalition government has not increased the workers’ salaries by 10 percent, like it was recommended by the Board (Wages Advisory Board), we are going to show the government who we are.

“We will reveal our true colours as it seems the government is inconsiderate to our needs. We cannot take it anymore. The vehicle we are driving is unstoppably going forward.”

Mr Likoti yesterday reiterated the workers’ demands for a higher salary increase and told the Lesotho Times: “The reason why you saw the workers holding placards that demanded a 10 percent salary increase was because we had been informed that the Board’s recommendation was unilaterally ignored by the (Labour and Employment) minister.

“We are not happy about this. Now that we officially know that the increase is less than the 10 percent we want, we have decided to engage in full force in the upcoming stay-away (which has been scheduled for 12 May) and demonstration against the government. We are not going to stop demonstrating until our voices have been heard.”

Meanwhile, the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL) had written to the Board demanding a 40 percent minimum wage increase for its members.

The union reasoned in the letter signed by its general secretary, Solong Senohe, that the prices of food, paraffin, transport and clothing had increased and the workers were finding it difficult to cope with their meagre salaries hence the demand for the 40 percent pay hike.

Mr Senohe was not immediately available for comment on the issue and the way forward.

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