TRADE unions have accused factory owners of employing unfair labour practices by opting out of long term employment contracts to ensure that they keep paying low salaries.
The unions said the practice will deny the workers benefits which they can only enjoy when they have been employed for longer periods.
Unions that spoke to the Lesotho Times said the factory owners are now terminating the lengthy contracts of up to a year opting for those that are as short as weeks.
The unions said the new approach is now only being employed by factory owners to ensure that they can evade payment of the newly gazetted minimum wages and will effectively render all the factory workers temporary employees.
In the Legal Notice No.63 of 2018 issued on 23 August 2018 by minister of Labor and Employment Keketso Rantšo said starting from 1 September this year, textile general workers and textile machine operator trainees with less than one-year experience working for the same employer will now get M1696 monthly up from M1238.
Textile machine operators will now be paid a minimum of M1823 up from M1331.
Trained machine operators with more than a year of service will now get M2000 up from the previous M1456 while textile general workers with more than a year of experience will now earn M1879 up from M1372.
Workers in the construction sector will also have their salaries increased by the same margins as those in the textile industry.
Meanwhile, factory workers in Lesotho spent most of August 2018 fighting for better living wages, and were eventually given an average pay rise of about 30 percent, although it was still below the M2000 per month threshold they wanted.
Secretary general of Lentsoe la Sechaba Workers Union, Monaheng Mokaoane, told Lesotho Times that this new approach was dangerous.
“This is a dangerous way in which some factories are treating workers by opting for short term contracts because that way, workers will not qualify for terminal benefits or sick leave,” Mr Mokaoane said.
He said most of the factories are now offering contracts that are under three months.
According to the Labour Code of 1992, an employee who has completed more than one year of continuous service with the same employer is entitled to receive a severance payment equivalent to two weeks’ wages for each completed year of continuous service with the employer.
Mr Mokaoane said it is important that the labour law is reviewed to increase the rate at which workers should be paid under fixed term contracts to discourage employers from using them.
“We want to see factory workers employed on a long-term basis and not these short-term contracts. One way in which this can be done is to amend the law so that short term contracts are paid at a higher rate than permanent contracts.”
Samuel Mokhele, the secretary general of the National Clothing and Textile Allied Workers Union (NACTWU) said that as much as it is legal to give workers short term contracts in Lesotho, the factories are abusing it.
Meanwhile, questions sent to the Lesotho Textile Exporters Association (LTEA) were not responded to at the time of going to press.