Bereng Mpaki/Tokelo Rasephei
TRADE unions have called on Labour and Employment Minister, Keketso Rantšo to promptly implement the nine percent minimum wage adjustment as intended by her predecessor, Thulo Mahlakeng.
Addressing a press conference yesterday, the trade unions expressed shock and disappointment over Ms Rantšo’s alleged intention to gazette an adjustment of 7 percent and not the 9 percent which they said they had been led to believe would be applied.
The unions consisted of representatives of the Independent Democratic Unions of Lesotho (IDUL), Lentsoe La Sechaba Workers Union, Construction, Mining and Quarrying and Allied Workers Union (CMQ), Lesotho Workers Association (LEWA), Lesotho Wholesalers, Caters and Allied Workers Union (LEWCAWU), Transport, Security and Allied Workers Union (TSAWU).
The unionists said they had a meeting with Ms Rantšo on Tuesday this week where she informed them of her decision to gazette a seven percent increment. They alleged that she claimed the decision was made by the cabinet.
They said the seven percent increment was not acceptable to their members, who were among the least paid in the country.
They said some employers had already implemented the nine percent which Advocate Mahlakeng and former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili had agreed to implement.
They warned that failure by the government to heed their demands could force the workers into seeking unspecified remedies to get the former’s attention.
“We do not agree with the seven percent decision as it did not go through the proper legal channels,” LEWCAWU representative Lebonejoang Molefi said, adding, “It did not go through the Wages Advisory Board (WAB) and was not endorsed by the public”.
Mr Molefi said Ms Rantšo’s decision was likely to create tensions between workers and employers, as some had already began paying their workers on the basis of a nine percent increment.
“The effect of this is that some of the workers who had already been receiving wages adjusted on the 9 percent rate will have their salaries docked to recoup the difference,” he added.
Mr Molefi further stated that Advocate Mahlakeng had already decided on a 9 percent increment.
A letter dated 26th April 2017 and signed by the Labour Commissioner and then acting Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Employment ‘Mamohale Matsoso informed workers and employers representatives that then minister had decided to adjust the minimum wage by 9%.
“I wish to inform you that the honorable minister has instructed me to advise you that he has decided to adjust minimum wage 9% across the board,” part of the letter reads.
In the letter, Ms Matsoso further indicated that the former Minister was advised to abide by section 51(1) of the Labour Code Order of 1992.
Advocate Mahlakeng’s decision on a nine percent increment came after workers’ representatives had proposed a 14 percent adjustment of the minimum wage while the employers proposed four percent. A consensus for a nine percent adjustment was later reached by all parties.
The trade unions said since she was not party to the wage review process, Ms Rantšo had no right to impose her decision which was different from the one she found on the table. They argued by so doing she was flouting some provisions of the Labour Code.
For his part, Letsoe La Sechaba’s Monaheng Mokaoane said the minister had misdirected herself by ignoring a decision that had already been and imposing a different one.
“If she is going to inherit the process that was started in her absence, it is only fair for her to complete that process by approving the increment she found on the table,” Mr Mokaoane said.
Mr Seabata Likoti of the IDUL further alleged that when asked why she decided on seven percent adjustment, Ms Rantšo responded by saying she was not the one who made “unrealistic promises to the electorate in order to win their votes ahead of last month’s elections”.
The unions said this year’s review process was long overdue as the wage adjustment should have come into effect in April.
They therefore said the gazette should clearly specify that adjustments would be effected retrospectively starting from April this year.
Meanwhile, Labour Minister Ms Rantšo referred the Lesotho Times to the ministry’s chief information officer, Malefetsane Nchaka who was not reachable for comment at the time of going to print.