Mining firm, union in tug of war

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MORIJA — A mining company based in Morija has accused the leader of a local labour union of trying to push it to violate the law.

Moradi Crushers, a quarry mining company said the secretary general of the Construction and Allied Workers Union (CAWULE), Thabo Thelingoane has been harassing them.

The company has since asked Labour Commissioner Mamohale Matsoso to intervene and save it from the alleged harassment by Thelingoane. 

The bitter fight between CAWULE and Moradi started earlier this year.

On February 12 the Moradi human resources manager wrote to Matsoso complaining that the CAWULE general secretary was harassing him.

“We have operated in Lesotho for over 30 years and never before have we met the likes of Mr Thelingoane of CAWULE,” reads the letter.

“It has got to a point that he is harassing us not only in violation of the law, industrial relations of Lesotho rules, regulations and practices.”

“It is not long ago when we had to put our foot down against his wild allegations that we are violating the law when we refused to grant him closed shop facility.”

“He always comes up with highly unacceptable and exaggerated claims and it has got to a point where we question his ability and qualification to be a trade unionist who is supposed to protect and promote the rights and interests of members of his trade union.”

Moradi wanted the comissioner to intervene saying Thelingoane “ill-advises his members thus endangering the security of their jobs.”

But on February 20 CAWULE said the accusation that Thelingoane tried to push Moradi to violate the law had no basis.

“The issue was part of negotiations for the year 2008 and parties dealt with the issue according to the agreement.”

CAWULE condemned “these direct attacks on Mr Thelingoane as a person.”

 The union said the company had invoked one of the clauses of the agreement signed in January 2005.

CAWULE called the labour commissioner to convene an urgent meeting between them and Moradi to restore good relations.

Since then there has been a cold war between Moradi and CAWULE.

The war restarted again when CAWULE proposed extension of workers’ employment contracts and betterment of their wages.

The move cost CAWULE all membership in the company.

CAWULE wanted to have employment contracts of its members renegotiated.

The union wanted the one year contract to be extended to six years arguing that the current contracts were making it difficult for workers to acquire bank loans or buy property on hire-purchase.

The union was also negotiating for a 22 percent wage increment.

But instead of getting a favourable response the union got a letter from Moradi’s management saying its workers were no longer its members.

 “I hereby bring to your attention that your union does not have members in Moradi (Pty) Ltd and the agreement between the company and the union will be automatically terminated,” reads part of the letter.

On June 1 Moradi wrote another letter telling CAWULE that it should never hold workers meetings in the company premises.

“You must meet outside the company premises to resolve the matter and there will be no meeting between management and any of your involved parties.”

Moradi’s second letter followed CAWULE’s response to the May 28 letter saying it had never received the workers’ resignation note.

“Union has not received any document or anything in relation to members’ resignation,” read CAWULE’s response.

“I therefore request you to verify that to the union by furnishing such documents.”

The documents were never sent to the union.

CAWULE however took the matter to the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) where it was ruled that within 90 days from July 1 it should acquire over 50 percent of members in the company.

However the union failed because Moradi allegedly did not allow it to hold workers’ meeting at its premises.

CAWULE has filed another application with the DDPR seeking an award to compel Moradi to allow it to hold meetings at the company’s premises.

Thelingoane said he was fighting to have Moradi workers represented by a union.

 “There is nothing binding the Moradi management to agree on anything that will benefit the workers,” Thelingoane said.

“It is going to be very difficult for them to take their matter to the DDPR without the assistance of a trade union.”

Moradi manager, Johan Reyneke said it was the workers’ choice to abandon CAWULE and his company would not force anybody to join any trade union.

 

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