Work­ers to grill min­is­ters

Lesotho Times - - News - Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane

Three cabi­net min­is­ters are to­mor­row ex­pected to ad­dress work­ers at Maseru Cen­tral Park as part of May Day cel­e­bra­tions.

May Day, also known as Work­ers’ Day, is com­mem­o­rated in most coun­tries, in­clud­ing Le­sotho, on 1 May ev­ery year.

The Al­liance of Pro­gres­sive Trade Unions (APTU) — a fed­er­a­tion of 15 tex­tile, com­mer­cial, con­struc­tion, brew­ing and bev­er­ages, and se­cu­rity trade unions — is or­gan­is­ing to­mor­row’s cel­e­bra­tion, which is ex­pected to at­tract thou­sands of work­ers.

APTU Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, Tšeliso ramochela, on Tues­day told the Le­sotho Times that this year’s May Day would be com­mem­o­rated un­der the theme, ‘ Deep­en­ing work­ing class power to ad­vance the strug­gle for de­cent work’.

Mr ramochela said the al­liance had in­vited Labour and em­ploy­ment Min­is­ter Thulo Mahlak­eng, Trade and In­dus­try Min­is­ter Joshua Setipa and health Min­is­ter Dr ’ Molotsi Monya­mane, to rep­re­sent gov­ern­ment at to­mor­row’s com­mem­o­ra­tions.

“We have five main is­sues which we are go­ing to present be­fore th­ese min­is­ters. We would want the con­cerns to be ur­gently put be­fore cabi­net be­cause they are is­sues both­er­ing not only the work­ers, but also the em­ploy­ers, and the gov­ern­ment to some ex­tent,” said Mr ramochela.

“The work­ers want an­swers on such is­sues as the Jobs Sum­mit, Na­tional So­cial Se­cu­rity Scheme, Ma­ter­nity Pro­tec­tion, African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act (AGOA) and Ap­parel Le­sotho Al­liance to Fight AIDS (ALAFA) as a mat­ter of ur­gency.

“Two is­sues will be di­rected at the Min­is­ter of Labour, Ad­vo­cate Mahlak­eng, the first be­ing the Jobs Sum­mit. You will re­call that last year, in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions that are stake­hold­ers in work­place is­sues, came to­gether and in­jected large sums of money into many coun­tries to or­gan­ise na­tional fo­rums where ideas would be ex­changed on how to cre­ate and se­cure more jobs.

“Le­sotho’s tar­get was to cre­ate at least 10 000 jobs per year. Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing led the Le­sotho del­e­ga­tion in dis­cussing this is­sue. But be­cause of last year’s po­lit­i­cal dis­tur­bances, Le­sotho could not fi­nalise its part of the Jobs Sum­mit.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mr ramochela, the unions had hoped to go to em­ploy­ers and ask how many work­ers they had, through the Jobs Sum­mit.

“If where the em­ploy­ers are sup­posed to hire 10 peo­ple and there are only five, we wanted to ask how much they needed to get the other five. We ex­pected to go to the ex­tent of ask­ing how much the gov­ern­ment would have to con­trib­ute to em­ploy­ers for them to hire more work­ers.

“This is­sue is of ut­most im­por­tance to all stake­hold­ers. And we are say­ing that with­out the Jobs Sum­mit, there isn’t go­ing to be peace in this coun­try. As work­ers, we will ag­gres­sively en­gage into pol­i­tics and fight if this is not ad­dressed as a mat­ter of ur­gency. No one will go to work coun­try­wide be­cause it seems we will be short­changed.

“Sec­ond af­ter the Jobs Sum­mit is the Na­tional So­cial Se­cu­rity Scheme which we also want the labour min­is­ter to ad­dress. We copy a lot of things from South Africa most of which may not even be nec­es­sary for Ba­sotho. But we fail to copy good things like the coun­try’s Un­em­ploy­ment In­sur­ance Fund (UIF). In­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions have helped by do­nat­ing funds so that the NSSS law is es­tab­lished in Le­sotho.

“This is where both the em­ployer and em­ployee will con­trib­ute for pen­sions and other re­tire­ment benefits. The gov­ern­ment will pro­vide tech­ni­cal knowhow. This also has to be given top pri­or­ity by the gov­ern­ment.”

Mr ramochela added the money con­trib­uted would also be in­vested in projects to cre­ate more jobs. “The other point that falls un­der this scheme is Ma­ter­nity Pro­tec­tion, not ma­ter­nity leave, for em­ploy­ers in the pri­vate sec­tor. For so long, fac­tory work­ers were be­ing been given three-weeks ma­ter­nity leave while other em­ploy­ees were al­lowed three months.

“Ac­cord­ing to pro­vi­sions of the Labour Code, the em­ployer is not obliged to pay for ma­ter­nity leave. The dif­fer­ence be­tween ma­ter­nity leave and pro­tec­tion is that the for­mer is paid by the em­ployer alone while the lat­ter is paid by both the em­ployer and em­ployee.”

The fourth is­sue re­lated to AGOA which Mr ramochela said the unions wanted Mr Setipa to ad­dress.

AGOA, which is a trade pref­er­ence that al­lows Sub-sa­ha­ran coun­tries like Le­sotho to ex­port prod­ucts duty and quota free into the United States of Amer­ica, is set to ex­pire in Septem­ber 2015.

“We want to know whether there is a pos­si­bil­ity that it is go­ing to be re­newed. We are

aware that there are ef­forts be­ing made by 37 coun­tries, which were even led by Le­sotho to ne­go­ti­ate the ex­ten­sion of the leg­is­la­tion. We would want to hear from the min­is­ter how far they have gone.

“he has to be clear on two is­sues re­gard­ing AGOA; first is whether it will be re­newed or not, and se­condly is that if it is re­newed or ex­tended how are we go­ing to po­si­tion our­selves as a coun­try so that when the next term comes to an end we are not as stranded and des­per­ate as we are now.

“The last point re­lates to is­sues of health and is di­rected at the Min­is­ter of health, Dr Monya­mane. Fol­low­ing last year’s clo­sure of ALAFA (Ap­parel Le­sotho Al­liance to Fight AIDS), which as­sisted more than 3, 500 work­ers with HIV and AIDS re­lated treat­ment, th­ese ben­e­fi­cia­ries were stranded. Just like AGOA, the gov­ern­ment has failed to po­si­tion it­self where it is able to take over or find a sub­sti­tute when ALAFA’S term ended. Dr Monya­mane has to tell us gov­ern­ment’s plan about this. We don’t want prom­ises any­more. We want dia­logue with the gov­ern­ment re­gard­ing all th­ese key is­sues.”

Mr ramochela added the work­ers were also go­ing to take the Demo­cratic Congress (DC) to task over the party’s man­i­festo which in­di­cated public ser­vants would be al­lowed to form trade unions.

“Now that the DC is in gov­ern­ment, we are also go­ing to take it into task over its claim in its man­i­festo that it will al­low gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees to form trade unions. At present, civil ser­vants are only per­mit­ted to es­tab­lish as­so­ci­a­tions, not trade unions. The DC men­tioned in its man­i­festo that it will al­low the work­ers to form trade unions. We would want to hear them say it now.”

Mean­while, other guest speak­ers ex­pected to de­liver key­note speeches at to­mor­row’s event in­clude ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Le­sotho em­ploy­ers and Busi­ness (ALEB), Le­sotho Tex­tile ex­porters As­so­ci­a­tion (LTEA), Le­sotho Coun­cil for Non-gov­ern­men­tal Or­gan­i­sa­tions (LCN) and pres­i­dent of the Le­sotho Public Ser­vice Staff As­so­ci­a­tion.

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