By Nat Molomo
MASERU — Twenty correctional officers have dragged the Lesotho Correctional Service (LCS) to court demanding that the government pays them their salaries in line with their university qualifications.
In his founding affidavit, Thabo Chechela, on behalf of his co-applicants, wants the High Court to order the Commissioner of Correctional Services and the Minister of Justice to pay the applicants their “salary underpayments”.
They allege that since joining the LCS they have been underpaid after they were placed in a lower grade that did not recognise their university qualifications.
The applicants say the Commissioner of Correctional Services should pay all LLB degree holders at Grade G while the rest of the applicants who hold various degrees should be paid at Grade F.
They also want the payment of applicants at Grade E or any other grade below Grade F declared unlawful.
Chechela says in his court papers that after he joined the LCS he was paid at Grade Seven to eight and not at Grade F which is for university graduates.
He says when he realised the anomaly he approached his superiors but was told that “the anomaly shall be released by way of arrear payments towards the end of probation period”.
But when the probation period ended on April 1, 2011, the LCS failed to correct the anomaly and pay his salary arrears.
“I engaged with the office of the human resources on this issue from time to time. I mostly met Chief Officer Seotsanyane and Senior Superintendent Sera in the human resources office whom I could deduce were troubled by this issue,” he said.
He said he then wrote a letter to the human resources office, signed by his colleagues, where they complained about the grading discrepancies.
He told his superiors that “the salary payable to a first degree holder is Grade F and nothing else”.
“The human resources officer C/o Seotsanyane called a few of us and stated that the (letter) should be written to (the Commissioner of Correctional Service) by an individual person and that we should not write as a group as that is an act of mutiny,” he says.
Chechela says it is common knowledge “that a person within the civil service and who holds an LLB degree is paid at Grade G”.
“I further submit that this issue of underpayment of university degree holders has also been decided in the past decisions of this honourable court and the court has held that it is wrong to pay a university degree holder below the grade stated in the public services circular,” he said.
“It follows that we should be paid at Grade F and G respectively together with arrears from date of our respective engagement to the date on which our situation is normalised.”
The applicants are also arguing that according to a Ministry of Public Service Circular Notice No 8 of 2000, “the entry salary for university graduates is at Grade F”.
Chechela submitted “that we are currently being paid at Grade 7 to 8” contrary to the ministry’s regulations.
“I submit that we have at all times had the legitimate expectation that the Ministry of Justice shall abide by the practice existing in the public service by paying us in terms of the practice and the circular that specifies salary scales for university degree holders,” he said.
Chechela said it is wrong for the Ministry of Justice to pay them salaries below Grades F and G.
“I am qualified to be paid at Grade G in terms of the existing practice irrespective of the rank and promotion but because of educational qualifications.
“My co-applicants holding first university degrees qualify to be paid at Grade F in terms of the existing practice irrespective of rank and or promotion but because of educational qualifications. I submit that we should be paid our proper salaries inclusive of salary arrears,” he said.