Engagement key in tackling labour issues
I am Advocate Karabo Tlhoeli, The Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Labour and Employment. Let me welcome you all to the first issue of our weekly column called “Labour Market Dialogue”. We hope this column will serve as a platform to educate, to share and sometimes to provoke public discourse on issues that readers may feel to be of interest to them. We intend to make this column an interactive space of engagement. Therefore, I urge you to make the best use of this column.
This introductory article gives a direction and outline the parameters within which we shall operate.
This column is a one of its own kind, where readers are going to know more about labour market themes which include, amongst others; social dialogue, skills development for employment and employment promotion, labour inspections, occupational safety and health, workmen’s compensation, labour migration, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and indeed the labour market information and statistics.
We launch this column at the opportune moment when Lesotho celebrates 50 years of Independence and equally, the Ministry and Labour movement is not an exception.
It is imperative that we refer to the speech of Labour and Employment Minister Tšoeu Thulo Mahlakeng at Pitso Ground during Worker’s Day celebrations on 1 May 2016 where he gave an insight on some of the milestones the ministry has achieved in the past 50 years which were articulated as follows:
Firstly, Lesotho has come a long way in the regulation of labour market. Many will recall that during colonial rule, the Lesotho labour market was regulated through Common Law and Master and Servant Act No. 15 of 1856 which was designed to enforce discipline on ex-slaves and/poor working class. There have been a number of laws since then which have been amended with the purpose of addressing the emerging challenges in the labour market.
Secondly, employers had excessive powers whereby employees were dismissed without giving them opportunity to be heard (summary dismissal) let alone the fact that misconduct was a criminal offence where employees were imprisoned for violating employment contracts. This practice has since been abolished.
Apart from that, in the past employees worked until the employer was satisfied whereas currently there is a minimum and maximum working hours per day or week inclusive of rest hour, leave days, paid maternity leave in certain circumstances. Currently, a worker has a right to paid overtime which was not the case before.
In the past, labour disputes were treated as ordinary cases in civil courts but now the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR), Labour Court and Labour Appeal Court have been established to ensure a speedy resolution of Labour Disputes.
Breaking away from that history of 50 years, we all know that the labour market continues to evolve rapidly, hence the need for the labour market dialogue.
We are aware that there are still more decent work deficits in the labour market and challenges regarding labour administration, human and financial constraints as well as lack of culture of continuous improvement. However, we have started to deal with the problems head on.
This financial year, the ministry has, for the first time, had an annual general meeting (AGM) where our stakeholders or clientele have a platform to scrutinize the quality of services we provide.
We got useful feedback from the past AGM and we are currently working on the shortfalls that were raised so that in the next AGM we would be able to report positively on the progress made.
However, the ministry has since developed an Employment and Labour Sector Plan to address the challenges raised by our clientele in the AGM.
There are projects that the ministry is currently engaged in; such include development of Lesotho’s first Labour Policy since independence which is a long overdue exercise that should have guided the fulfilment of the mandate and prevent the fragmentation of labour administration that we see today as well as dichotomization of labour relations into private and public sectors.
Apart from that, the ministry is also working on Labour Law Review, Social Security and Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) Profile, to make way for the new OSH legislation separate from the Labour Code.
We have to engage each other on the problems that continue to bedevil the labour market. We acknowledge there is still more room for improvement in many areas of the labour market, such include but not limited to the fol- lowing: l Surplus of labour in many sectors of the economy; l Skills mismatch; l Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) vs over adherence to formal qualifications; l Initiative to give youth experience; l High unemployment and most importantly youth unemployment; l Collaboration efforts on skills development between industries and training institutions; l Job security and casualization of work/job; l Pockets of discriminatory practices by some employers; l Labour inspections; l Collective bargaining structures for the living wage; l Inclusive labour market regulatory framework e.g. domestic workers, informal economy workers; l Professional skills within the labour market administration; l Labour market profile; l Updated OSH profile; l Institute of Labour Studies in Lesotho; l Culture of compliance with labour laws; l Incidents of child labour; l Updated labour market information and statistics; l Fragmented labour administration and dichotomised labour relations systems; l Automated efficient and predictable work permits system; l Most under resourced Ministry in both human and financial; l Employment creation or promotion programmes.
In the subsequent issues, we are going to explore issues in a detailed way and I hope you will enjoy reading them.
There are projects that the ministry is currently engaged in; such include development of Lesotho’s first Labour Policy since independence which is a long overdue exercise that should have guided the fulfilment of the mandate and prevent the fragmentation of labour administration that we see today as well as dichotomization of labour relations into private and public sectors