Thousands of workers protested against a three-month delay in announcing new minimum wages, demanding the mandatory national minimum wage schedules, which provide wage rates for key jobs within sectors and are published annually in the Lesotho Government Gazette in April, to be released.
Although negotiations are taking place within the Wages and Advisory Board where unions, government and employers are represented, an agreement has not yet been found.
Workers are demanding a 15 per cent increase while employers are offering only seven per cent.
For example, the minimum wages for the garment and textile sector are currently set at Lesotho Loti 1238 per month (US$89) which is not enough for workers to look after their families and pay for basics like rent, food and transport.
Unions want the minimum wage in this sector to be US$144 and are also demanding that the minimums in all sectors be revised upwards towards a living wage of over US$200.
IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), and seven other unions organizing in sectors including the garment and textile, manufacturing and mining took to the streets in Maseru and Maputsoe to protest the delays and the low wages.
Petitions were delivered to the prime minister, the ministry of labour and employment, and to parliament. Unions are also demanding that the minister of labour and employment, Keketso Rantso, be removed from her position for not announcing the minimum wages on time. They say because of the delay, the minister has neglected the welfare of workers and their families.
Through the union building project, IDUL is also campaigning for full pay while on maternity leave for women workers from the garment and textile sector. The union also wants better health and safety at workplaces, improved job security and respect for workers’ rights.
With over 56 per cent of the population living in poverty, and youth unemployment at 47 per cent, better wages can improve workers lives. The opening of new factories can also create jobs and improve living conditions in the country.
Says Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa:
Workers end up living in poverty because of low subsistence wages. It is therefore important for minimum wages to be increased. Therefore, we are urging the government of Lesotho to urgently announce minimum living wages.
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