Sun In­ter­na­tional work­ers to down tools

Lesotho Times - - News - Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane

Sun In­ter­na­tional work­ers are set to em­bark on a month-long strike on Tues­day next week after fail­ing to reach an agree­ment with man­age­ment over an “ac­cept­able” salary in­crease.

The work­ers had de­manded a nine per­cent in­crease, while man­age­ment could only of­fer five per­cent. Fol­low­ing the dead­lock, the mat­ter was re­ferred to the Direc­torate of Dis­pute Preven­tion and Res­o­lu­tion (DDPR), but still an am­i­ca­ble so­lu­tion could not be found.

Ac­cord­ing to a DDPR doc­u­ment, of which the Le­sotho Times has a copy, the work­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives, na­tional union of Com­merce, Cater­ing and Al­lied Work­ers union (NUCCAW), sought in­ter­ven­tion on 29 Oc­to­ber 2014. Sun In­ter­na­tional owns Le­sotho Sun and Maseru Sun — two of the coun­try’s swanki­est ho­tels.

The DDPR doc­u­ment reads: “NUCCAW sub­mit­ted that the work­ers’ wages should be in­creased by nine per­cent across the board. How­ever, the ho­tel of­fered five per­cent with con­di­tions that no meals and night trans­port would be availed for the work­ers as was pre­vi­ously the case.”

Ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment, NUCCAW had sub­se­quently pro­posed 8.7 per­cent, then six per­cent, un­til the union came down to 5.7 per­cent.

How­ever, the man­age­ment agreed to 5.7 per­cent but on cer­tain con­di­tions.

The DDPR doc­u­ment adds: “Dis­pute arose where now the man­age­ment out­lined a three­year deal in which it pledged to of­fer 5.7 per­cent, 5.9 per­cent and 6.5 per­cent for the cur­rent fi­nan- cial year (2014-2015), next year (2015 — 2016) and third year (2016-2017), re­spec­tively, with con­di­tions.

“The of­fer fur­ther changed to 5.7 per­cent; 5.9 per­cent guar­an­teed and pro­vi­sion­ally 6.5 per­cent on con­di­tion that M7 mil­lion op­er­at­ing profit was achieved and 6.2 per­cent guar­an­teed and pro­vi­sion­ally 7 per­cent on con­di­tion that M9 mil­lion op­er­at­ing profit is achieved.

“The said wage in­cre­ment was of­fered across the board re­spec­tively as a three-year deal, and still keep­ing the free staff meals and night trans­port.”

But the work­ers re­jected the deal, in­sist­ing after set­tling for 5.7 per­cent “as a com­pro­mise,” the in­crease should only ap­ply for the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year, while a new deal is ne­go­ti­ated in 2015,” one of the work­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives told the Le­sotho Times this week, on con­di­tion of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

The work­ers also told the Le­sotho Times they even sought gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­ven­tion but still there was no break­through.

Gov­ern­ment, through the Le­sotho na­tional De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (LNDC) and Min­istry of Fi­nance, owns 53 per­cent shares in the ho­tel group, which cur­rently em­ploys 402 staffers. Sun In­ter­na­tional owns the re­main­ing 47 per­cent shares.

How­ever, Sun In­ter­na­tional has since sold its stake to Mi­nor In­ter­na­tional Pub­lic Company (MINT), which takes over in Fe­bru­ary 2015.

MINT op­er­ates ho­tels in 20 coun­tries un­der the Anan­tara, AVANI, Oaks, Per AQUUM Ele­wana and Four Sea­sons, St Regis, Mar­riott, Radis­son Blu and Mi­nor In­ter­na­tional.

Con­tacted for a com­ment yes­ter­day, Sun In­ter­na­tional Area Gen­eral Man­ager, Ri­aan Van Rooyen, said the ho­tel had con­tin­gency mea­sures in place to min­imise the ef­fects of the strike.

“We are aware of the work­ers’ in­ten­tion to go on strike start­ing Tues­day, 23 De­cem­ber.

“As man­age­ment, we will ap­ply pro­vi­sions of the law and lock them out of the ho­tels’ premises with ef­fect from Mon­day, 22 De­cem­ber, so that they don’t dis­rupt op­er­a­tions.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Van Rooyen, the work­ers ini­tially de­manded a 14 per­cent salary in­crease, which the company could not af­ford.

“The company could not af­ford to pay more than what we were of­fer­ing. For the first time in four years, the ho­tels only made a profit of M1.4 mil­lion last year.

“Even the gov­ern­ment, as a share­holder, has not been re­ceiv­ing its div­i­dends since the 1990s, I think, be­cause the ho­tels have been strug­gling.”

Mr Van Rooyen fur­ther noted the company had con­tin­gency plans to mit­i­gate the ef­fects of the in­dus­trial ac­tion, which is ten­ta­tively ex­pected to end on 22 Janu- ary 2015.

“Ac­tu­ally, only 53 per­cent of the staffers voted to go on this strike, while we will re­main with 47 per­cent of the work­force.

“They have signed their names for ref­er­ence, so it will be easy to iden­tify which ones we will be lock­ing out of the premises come Mon­day,” said Mr Van Rooyen.

Labour and Em­ploy­ment min­is­ter Keketso Ran­tšo, on the other hand, yes­ter­day con­firmed to the Le­sotho Times the work­ers had in­formed her of their griev­ances.

“I am aware that the work­ers are plan­ning to go on strike; they brought their is­sues to me for in­ter­ven­tion.

“I man­aged to meet them and their man­age­ment at dif­fer­ent meet­ings and I am still try­ing to me­di­ate over this is­sue.

“Even yes­ter­day, I think they met with our prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary be­cause I was not avail­able in of­fice.

“I’m yet to be told what tran­spired in the meet­ing. But ba­si­cally, we are try­ing to work out this is­sue so that we have a win-win sit­u­a­tion.

“We would want to avoid that strike and hope a set­tle­ment will be reached be­fore the work­ers down tools.”

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