DIRECTORATE of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) staff have given management until tomorrow to pay their salaries for April 2017 failing which they would not report for duty.
The Lesotho Times has learnt that all DDPR staff members, who are around 35 and deployed nationwide, had not received their salaries for April 2017 as of yesterday despite their pay day being the 25th of every month.
The DDPR is an arm of the Ministry of Labour and Employment vested with powers to prevent and resolve trade disputes through conciliation. It is also mandated with resolving trade disputes through arbitration, to advice employees, employers and their organisations on the prevention of trade disputes.
The agency’s staff complement includes directors, conciliators and arbitrators who are all employed by the government.
The DDPR is, however, expected to operate independently from the government, political parties, trade unions and employers’ organisations.
In a letter dispatched yesterday and addressed to DDPR Director and Industrial Relations Council Secretary, ’Mabathoana Khotle, the disgruntled workers issue a two-day ultimatum for the payment of their salaries. The letter is also copied to Labour and Employment Minister Thulo Mahlakeng, Finance Minister Tlohang Sekhamane and their principal secretaries.
Titled “Intervention on the state of affairs regarding salaries at the DDPR” part of the letter reads: “As the Industrial Relations Council is aware that DDPR staff salaries have not been paid for the month of April 2017, some DDPR staff members have incurred costs as a result of the aforementioned.
“It is pertinent to mention that this delay in payment of salaries has now become a norm in the directorate.”
The letter continues: “Our concern is this; will the employer undertake to pay the back charges we suffered as a result of our stop orders having failed to be paid on time and many other incidental expenses incurred as a result of this failure to pay salaries as per the agreed date on our contracts of employment?
“As we write this letter on 10 May 2017, our salaries for the month of April 2017 have still not been paid and no plausible explanation has been advanced, except for a memo dated 24 April 2017 with a heading ‘Delay in payment of salaries for April’.”
The memo, which is also in the Lesotho Times’ possession was issued by DDPR Deputy Director Motlatsi Monoko.
Part of it reads: “Please take notice that there has been a delay in the process of payment of salaries for all staff of the DDPR for April, 2017.”
Mr Monoko states that the DDPR would not receive their salaries on the usual 25th of the month.
“Management is currently doing all it can to ensure that the salaries are paid as soon as possible. Management is profoundly sorry for any inconvenience that may have been caused,” he adds.
But in the letter issuing the ultimatum, the workers say the delay in the payment of their salaries was “unbearable”.
“We write this letter to humbly seek the intervention from your good office to address this matter with utmost agency because this situation is unbearable.
Adds the letter: “We would appreciate a response within two working days of receipt hereof failing which we shall have no alternative but not to report for duty. We ask that the financial issue be addressed and that our salaries be paid as soon as practicable. Further that the institution should be seen to prioritise salaries in the next financial year 2017/2018 and not let this unfortunate event to repeat itself.”
A DDPR staffer who spoke to this publication yesterday on condition of anonymity, for fear of victimisation, said the delays in the payment of their salaries began in October 2015.
“However, the delay has never been this long. It has never extended to the next month,” the sources said.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Mr Khotle said frantic efforts by his department to get the money for the salaries from the government had not yielded fruits.
“The process of getting money for salaries from the government is quite long, but it usually does not take this long,” he said.
“Because we are supposed to be an autonomous entity under the Ministry of Labour and Employment, we normally make a request for the money on a quarterly basis.”
Mr Khotle said for the second quarter of 2017, they made the request as early as in March this year.
“The expectation was that by this time, the money would have long been deposited into our bank account. But sadly we have been waiting in vain,” he said.
“Even I haven’t received my salary yet. After we make the request, it is then approved by the ministry. Thereafter, the ministry will communicate with the accountant-general (AG Sam Mphaka) at the Ministry of Finance. The AG will then communicate with the Central Bank of Lesotho which is the only entity that can transfer the money into our account.”
DDPR staffers who spoke to this paper said they suspected “someone” was sabotaging the process.
Repeated efforts to contact officials from the ministry were unsuccessful last night.
Civil servants have borne the brunt of delays in the payment of salaries in recent months.
Last month Mr Mphaka issued a notice to principal secretaries of all government ministries, all heads of departments and all district administrators saying salaries would be delayed for up to four days “due to the delay in capturing the budget” for the 2017/2018 financial year.