MASERU — The strike at the Metolong Dam project turned violent on Monday as workers pelted their boss with stones.
Song Yi Jun, the Sinohydro Corporation manager, sustained some serious injuries and was admitted to hospital for two days.
He was released yesterday.
Also injured in the violent confrontation was Hlalefang Seoaholimo, the national organiser of the Lesotho Workers Association (Lewa).
Matters came to a head on Monday after Song allegedly reneged on an agreement to award a salary increment to the striking workers.
The workers allege that Sinohydro Corporation had last Friday agreed to give the workers a M3 increment for every hour worked.
But at a meeting which was addressed by Seoaholimo on Monday, Song allegedly reneged on the agreement telling workers the company could only afford a M1 increment per every hour worked.
This incensed the workers who started pelting Song.
Workers at Sinohydro Corporation are said to be currently earning M6.20 per hour.
They are demanding M18.88 per hour for the lowest paid worker.
Speaking to the Lesotho Times yesterday, Song said he did not understand why the workers attacked him after he made an offer to them.
“I don’t understand why they attacked me yet I offered them a salary increment. I have just been released from hospital but my condition is very bad,” Song said.
He said he offered to increase workers’ salaries by M200 a month but they rejected the offer.
Seoaholimo however blamed the Chinese bosses for sparking the fight.
“I was addressing the workers after we had a meeting with the employer and his union representatives on Monday afternoon,” he said
“On Friday Song had agreed to increase the salaries by M3 per hour which was going to be M10.49 per hour but then he later on changed saying he could only offer M1 per hour.
“During the meeting two other Chinese workers came towards us. They started taking pictures of the employees. The Chinese who were taking pictures then started throwing stones at us. I was hit in the back then Basotho workers then started retaliating.”
Last week Energy and Water Affairs Minister Timothy Thahane visited the project in an attempt to negotiate a peaceful end to the stand-off.
Thahane urged the workers to end their strike.
“The construction of Metolong Dam is very important to Basotho and I want the strike settled and the construction of the dam completed on time,” Thahane said to the workers.
He urged the workers’ union to negotiate with the employer while workers continued with their work.
Although the workers had last week agreed to resume work to allow negotiations to take place they vowed to resume the strike if their demands were not met within three days.
Police spokesperson Masupha Masupha confirmed to the Lesotho Times that two male Chinese nationals were attacked at Metolong Dam.
“Two Chinese men were beaten and injured at Metolong Dam on Monday. It was not clear how the fight started but we are investigating,” Masupha said.
Sinohydro Corporation is a Chinese-owned construction company that has been tasked with building the M540 million Metolong Dam project.
The project is expected to end in 2014.