MASERU — Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has bowed to pressure from a coalition of trade unions and business groups after he agreed to meet them to discuss their grievances.
Daniel Maraisane, the secretary general of the Lesotho Clothing and Workers Union (Lecawu), told the Lesotho Times yesterday that Mosisili had on Tuesday written to the “coalition of concerned unions” indicating his willingness to meet them.
Maraisane said the date for the meeting was still to be agreed.
Lecawu was one of several groups that organised a stay-away a fortnight ago that almost brought the city to a virtual standstill.
Maraisane said Mosisili’s letter, which was addressed to the secretary of the coalition group, Mokete Jonase, who is also the spokesperson for Maseru Region Transport Operators, was received on Tuesday.
The coalition last week petitioned Mosisili to address the issues of wages for textile workers, scholarships for tertiary students and allow taxi operators to effect a 100 percent fare increase.
The textile workers are demanding a massive wage hike from the current M900 to M2 020 a month.
The coalition gave Mosisili until Monday to address their grievances or they would call a mass stay-away.
By Monday afternoon Mosisili had still not responded to the coalition’s grievances stoking fears that the unions were on a fresh collision course with the government.
But despite Mosisili agreeing to meet the coalition Maraisane was yesterday still adamant that the fight was far from over. “We have not dropped plans to go on a stay-away. We will only postpone the stay-away when we hear what Mosisili has to say,” Maraisane said.
He added: “If he talks to us just to brush us off we will continue with our plan. Our people are ready and we are continuing to lobby support in other districts.”
Speaking earlier on Monday Maraisane said the unions were in discussions with their members on the way forward.
“We (Lecawu) have already agreed on calling a stay-away. We are lobbying for other unions to agree with us. It will be bigger than the one we organised two weeks ago,” he said.
The past stay-away happened in Maseru only but this time the unions were planning to embark on a national protest, Maraisane said.
Maraisane said they were also communicating with their counterparts in South Africa to show solidarity by stopping the movement of goods and people to Lesotho during the planned stay-away.
“We are planning to make the next stay-away bigger in all ways,” he said.
Meanwhile the Lesotho Textile Exporters Association (LTEA) has proposed a seven percent salary increment for textile employees.
Maraisane said the employers offered to up the salary increment from the five percent they had offered earlier this month to seven percent.
If the proposal is agreed the lowest paid factory worker will earn about M834 up from the M780 they used to get a month.
Last month representatives of the workers walked out of the wage talks in protest over the five percent offer.
“We walked out of the meeting when we did not agree with the five percent increment. They called us again and offered seven percent.
“Now we have sent our people to inform the employees and hear their response. If they agree, the increments will be effected next month,” Maraisane said.