Lesotho: Medigrow Dispute Goes to Labour Court

10 December 2019

A labour dispute between cannabis firm, Medigrow Lesotho (Pty) Ltd and its fired employees, has been elevated to the Labour Court after the two parties failed to reach agreement on an appropriate way forward at the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution (DDPR).

The parties remained deadlocked during the conciliation phase of a process to help them find each other conducted by conciliator Lereko Shale. This means the dismissed workers can now file an application to try and seek justice at the Labour Court.

On 17 October 2019, the 24 employees approached the DDPR seeking recourse after being fired from the company for striking over what they described as "bad working conditions."

The workers had staged a two-day job stay-away from 11 to 12 September 2019 after what they described as their employer's unsatisfactory response to a list of grievances they had submitted. The picketing workers were subsequently dispersed by riot police.

Medigrow Lesotho, which has since changed its corporate name to MG Health Limited, was licensed in 2016 to cultivate, extract and process medical cannabis and hemp for medical purposes.

The company has Canadian giant, Supreme Cannabis, as one of its major partners after it injected 10 million Canadian dollars (about $7, 7 million, M90, 4 million) into the project. The company currently has about 340 workers.

The workers complained that they were being subjected to inhumane treatment by, among other things being forced to take cold showers upon arrival at work even during the deep cold winter seasons before commencing their duties. They also say they were denied privacy as the security guards would watch over them while they showered.

The workers also claimed that only unskilled workers, where being targeted for "inhumane treatment" while their skilled counterparts were exempted.

The workers were also not happy with being asked to use supplied company underwear during working hours only after which they were asked to leave it after hours. This, they say, could expose them to serious health complications as the underwear is collectively washed and given back to them the next day.

The workers also want to be paid for the time spent in the shower as they consider this as part of their working hours. The workers further say they are not happy with being forced to surrender their private medical drugs upon arrival at the company. The practice could expose those who do not want their private medical conditions like HIV known.

Part of the conciliation report from the DDPR reads:

"This dispute concerns matters that fall within the jurisprudence of the DDPRS namely, 'Dismissal for participation in a strike.'

"The dispute was sat down for conciliation in terms of section 227(5) of the Labour Code (Amendment) Act and the... the parties failed to reach agreement on all of the matters that were claimed.

"I therefore hereby refer the matters to the Court for determination in terms of Section 226(3) of the Act," the report reads.

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