Workers take on milling firm management

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Rethabile Pitso

The Lesotho Flour Mills (LFM) has been reported to the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) by 43 senior staff who accuse the company of a number of alleged transgressions.

The case was before the DDPR on Tuesday, where the workers’ representative, Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers’ Union (LECAWU) General Secretary Lebonejoang James Molefi, tabled several grievances which he alleged had been ignored by the company.

Mr Molefi told the Lesotho Times: “I don’t want to go into the details of this case because it is now before the DDPR. What I can only tell you are the reasons these employees have engaged this office of the DDPR.

“They occupy senior management positions at Lesotho Flour Mills, and in December 2015, the company did not give them bonuses, while the rest of the workers, about 250 of them, got the money.

“The other issue is about a salary increase of 6.5 percent which was awarded to the rest of the workers in January this year, but not these 43 who are here today. In addition, in January, management unilaterally decided to reduce the workers’ car and mobile phone allowances by 20 percent.

“All this happened under the mistaken belief that people holding senior positions in the company cannot be trade union members because the salary increase, for instance, was negotiated by a trade union.”

Mr Molefi said the decision to take the case to the DDPR was “historic”.

“What is happening here today is historic in nature. Management teams have been told, for a very long time, that they do not have the right to become trade union members. But this challenge is historic in the sense that we have managed to prove to Lesotho Flour Mills that employees who occupy senior positions can also fall under what is called a bargaining unit, and these people can negotiate salary increases and participate in strikes,” he said.

Mr Molefi further said Lesotho Flour Mills retrenched workers last week which LECAWU would be taking up with the management.

“Some people were retrenched from the company last week and this is another case we will be dealing with in due course,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Molefi yesterday told the Lesotho Times that the case continues before the DDPR on 24 March.

“But before that, the Flour Mills management and workers representatives are going to meet for what is called a pre-arbitration conference. The date for this conference has not yet been set,” he said.

Contacted on Tuesday on the workers’ allegations, Lesotho Flour Mills Managing Director Ron Mills said: “I cannot comment on the DDPR case because I did not attend the hearing. I also cannot comment on anything regarding the retrenchments because those are internal matters. I have to make consultations before I could speak about such matters publicly.”

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