800 jobs on the line as firm fights crunch

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jobsBy ’Mantoetse Maama and Poloko Peo

MAPUTSOE — About 800 people could lose their jobs as Ternsportswear, a Maputsoe-based factory, faces collapse.

The factory is in the throes of a serious financial crisis that has been worsened by lack of new orders.

A deal to rescue the factory turned sour when the workers went on strike on Monday after the new management retrenched 50 employees and threatened to fire more.

The owners of Ternsportswear had agreed to hand over management of the factory to Export Unlimited, another factory.

The agreement was that Export Unlimited would use Ternsportswear’s facilities and workers for four months because it has orders.

Trouble started when the new management announced that it was slashing 50 jobs to cut costs.

The management also sent more workers on a four-week unpaid leave and told those remaining that they would earn half salaries.

Demanding that the new manager be fired, the workers embarked on a two-day strike that ended yesterday following intervention by labour unions.

‘Makhothatso Lebesa, a shopfloor employee, said the workers got angry when the new managers “verbally and physically abused the employees”.

“He forces us to work hard and meet the target yet he had dismissed some people,” Lebesa said.

“We are supposed to produce over 13 000 T-shirts or dresses per day but with the current number of workers we cannot meet the target.”

Lebesa said trouble began when the manager threatened to pay them half salaries after they refused to work.

The workers were given 50 percent of their salaries in July.

“Our employers do not respect us because they come and use us as cheap labour then leave without saying anything to us. The current managers had already complained that because we did not meet the target we will not be paid full salaries.”

‘Mathabo Hlapane, one of those retrenched, said she was sent home without any benefits despite having worked for the company for seven years.

She said she was part of the group of workers who where were called to the supervisor’s office when she was about to knock off on Monday.

Hlapane said they were ordered to collect their things and assemble outside the factory.

They were then handed letters stating their contracts had been terminated with immediate effect.

“They did not say anything about our benefits as some people have been working for the company for many years. We plead to the government to intervene in this matter,” Hlapane said.

“This is not the first time that the management has disappeared with employees’ money.” Last year Tern Sportswear A was closed without employees’ knowledge, they only learned when they were given dismissal letters by the new management.

Regional organiser of Factory Workers Union (FAWU), Kaizer Mapota, confirmed that workers were dismissed without their benefits.

Mapota said Tern Sportswear is currently having financial crises because it does not have new buyers.

He said Exports Unlimited has offered to buy from Tern Sportswear.

Mapota said Tern Sportswear employees complained that the new manager was abusing them.

“We discussed the matter with the factory authorities, Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC), Department of Labour and the decision was that Martin (the new manager) should not be at the factory,” Mapota said.

He said the factory will be under judicial management.

“We told the workers to go back to work on Wednesday until we have reached an agreement with other stakeholders. We asked them to tell their colleagues who were dismissed to come back to work,” Mapota said.

“The previous boss had financial crises. He told us that his two factories in South Africa were closed down due to financial crises. He also said he did not have any buyers who placed orders.”

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