TEACHERS who recently resolved to go on a month-long nationwide strike with effect from today, have vowed to go ahead with the industrial action to force the government to address their demands for salary increments and improved working conditions.
The teachers, who have coalesced under the Lesotho Teacher's Association (LAT), Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU) and Lesotho Schools Principals Association (LeSPA), announced their intention to go on strike last month.
The teachers want the government to pay them salary arrears on their performance-based contracts dating back to 2009. They also want the government to pay salaries that are commensurate with their academic and professional qualifications as well as weed out ghost workers from the payroll.
They even want Minister Rapapa to sack the Chief Executive Officer of the Teaching Service Department, 'Maselloane Sehlabi, who they accuse of maladministration and being a stumbling block to negotiations between them and the government.
And yesterday, the teachers said they will commence the job action by picketing at the education offices countrywide while they await the outcome of the arbitration of their dispute with the Ministry of Education and Training by the Directorate of Disputes Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) on Monday.
Education and Training minister, Ntoi Rapapa, has however, warned teachers against the strike action, saying they will be dealt with according to the law as the strike was illegal.
Professor Rapapa yesterday said that the government was doing everything in its power to address the teachers' grievances and a ministerial task team was formed on Tuesday to address their concerns.
"We have had several dialogues with teachers' unions and what I can assure the nation is that we have also started working on their grievances and in the past two months we have spent M18.8 million to pay the 582 teachers who were owed by the government," Dr Rapapa said.
"A committee of five ministers committee was formed and it will advise the cabinet on how best the issue of principals who were put on five-year performance-based contracts can be addressed.
"The Ministry of Education has further formed a subcommittee in which all the teachers' associations have representation. This task force is expected to review the teachers' salary and career structure and it is considering inputs from all stakeholders."
The inter-ministerial committee comprises of ministers Tsukutlane Au (Home Affairs), Moeketsi Majoro (Finance), Keketso Rantšo (Labour), Lebohang Hlaele (Law and Constitutional Affairs), as well as Professor Rapapa.
He said the planned picketing was illegal therefore no teacher is expected to engage in it or else will face consequences of going against the law. He said the three organisations had called off the strike because they were aware it was illegal and have now resorted to picketing.
"The government is aware that due processes which constitute a strike were not followed and as far as I know, no permit has been granted by the police for the teachers to picket at the education offices. Therefore, the government urges teachers and principals not to engage in any form of strike and everybody is expected to report to work as usual."
LAT chairperson Letsatsi Ntsibolane said the minister's warnings would not stop the teachers' job action.
"We want to make it clear that we have not called off the strike and picketing is a form of striking. We will engage in different forms of strike and the longevity will be determined by the minister's delays in addressing our issues.
"We will picket on today and tomorrow and the government should stop intimidating teachers by threatening to fire them if they do not report to work. According to the Labour Code Order 24 of 1992, it is our right to picket before the employer. We notified the police and the government about our intentions to picket so teachers should not fear anything and we promise we will never engage them in anything illegal.
"The dialogue with government has been exhausted and they are just playing delaying tactics," Mr Ntsibolane added.