A SENIOR trade union official, ‘Mopa Letseka of the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL) has called on government to revise labour laws to ensure that all female employees are granted fully paid maternity leave.
Ms Letseka, the IDUL’s senior organiser, this week told the Lesotho Times in an exclusive interview that women generally faced discrimination in the workplace where they were paid lower salaries and not given fully paid maternity leave.
“There is power in numbers and as a union we encourage employees to stand together concerning rights in the workplace,” Ms Leseka said, adding, “right now the biggest issue is that of the maternity leave laws in this country”.
“In male-dominated professions, the salaries are better than those where females are employed. For instance 95% of employees in the textile industry and factory workers in Lesotho are women but they have their maternity rights mishandled.
“The situation is so bad that women resort to hiding their pregnancies while others simply leave their babies before time to rush back to work as they only get six paid weeks of maternity leave instead of the 12 weeks they deserve.”
“It is the responsibility of the government to rectify the laws and revaluate the labour code in order to force employers to respect the rights of women in the workplace including the issue of paid maternity leave.”
The Government Gazette Volume 60 Number 18 of 13 March 2015 states that “an employee who has completed more than one year of continuous service with the same employer in the textile, clothing and leather manufacturing shall be entitled to receive six weeks paid maternity leave”.
This falls far short of the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 183, Article 4(1) which states female employees “shall be entitled to a period of maternity leave of not less than 14 weeks”.
Ms Leseka’s roles include recruiting employees to the IDUL, motivating and informing them of their rights as well as helping them achieve their goals and interests in the workplace.
She spoke to this publication at time when the country has joined other nations in celebrating Women’s Month.
Women’s Month is celebrated in August as a tribute to the more than 20 000 South African women who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 9 August 1956 protesting against the extension of pass laws to women in that country.
“My wish this Women’s Month is for the rights of all textile workers to be respected because they are at the core of this country’s economy.
“When someone wants to start a business the first place they look is the textile industry. I want these women to keep working together and eventually start their own businesses to create a future for their children,” Ms Leseka said.
She said women made a huge contribution to the development of the country, adding theirs was a role that should not be taken lightly as they were the backbone of the communities and raised the next generation of citizens.