Lesotho: Ex-Medigrow Workers Apply for Default Judgement

4 February 2020

A labour union has applied for default judgement in the case in which 24 workers are challenging their dismissal by medical cannabis producer, MG Health, formerly known as Medigrow Lesotho.

The workers filed a Labour Court application challenging their "unfair dismissal" on 7 January 2020 and on 22 January 2020, they followed this up with another application for a default judgement after MG Health allegedly failed to file an answering affidavit within the stipulated 14 days from their application for reinstatement.

The Construction Mining, Quarrying and Allied Workers Union have taken up the case on behalf of the former workers and the union's representative, Robert Mokhahlane, said their application for a default judgment will be heard on 24 March 2020.

"The Labour Court's Registrar 'Maserame Kotelo, has set 24 March 2020 as the date for the default application hearing," Mr Mokhahlane said.

In their 7 January 2020 application the 24 former workers petitioned the court to order MG Health to reinstate them "without loss of remuneration and seniority".

They also asked for the nullification of the company's declaration that they had embarked on an illegal strike.

The workers were dismissed on 17 September 2019 after embarking on what the company said was an illegal strike to protest the company's failure to address their demands for better working conditions.

The 24 were dismissed for embarking on what the company said was an illegal two-day strike on 11 and 12 September 2019.

According to their court papers, the workers went on strike after writing a 5 September 2019 letter warning their employer of the job action if their grievances were not addressed.

"On the 9th September 2019, the Chief Executive Officer surprisingly wrote a memo stipulating that any employee who will embark on the anticipated unlawful strike will face disciplinary action including summary dismissal," the workers state in their application.

On 11 September 2019 the workers were given an ultimatum to return to work or be dismissed.

"What surprised us is that on the 12th of September the management wrote a charge sheet indicating that we were inciting violence and threatening other employees resulting in their absence from work. They said we were absent (from work) without authorisation and participating in illegal strike...

"The charge sheet did not specify the venue, time and date where the disciplinary hearing shall be taking place so our union official (Mr Robert Mokhahlane) received a call from the Human Resources Officer Mr Letuka that the disciplinary hearing will resume on 15 September 2019.

"During the hearing our union representatives made preliminary points of law before the hearing can proceed that the employees were already summarily dismissed... the employees who were charged were not granted enough time to prepare their defence but the chairperson made a ruling that the hearing must proceed.

"On the 17 September 2019 we received dismissal letters that stipulated that our employment is terminated because we were found guilty of participating in an unlawful strike... ," the workers state.

Among other grievances, the workers demanded to be paid for the hour they take for bathing before commencing work.

The workers also complained that they were often subjected to cold showers without any privacy as the security guards would always watch over them while they showered. They workers claim the showering appeared to be forced on the unskilled workers and their skilled colleagues were allowed to enter the company premises freely without taking a bath.

The workers were also not happy with being supplied with underwear by their employer during working hours. They said this could have health implications on them as the underwear was collectively washed by the company.

They also protested against the regulations requiring that they surrender their medical drugs upon arrival at work, saying this gave away their health status which ought to be a confidential issue.

Meanwhile, a member of MG Health's legal team, Advocate Ntlatlapa Mosae said he was "not up to speed with the case" as he had only arrived in the country on Tuesday.

He referred this publication to one Mr Mateisi who said he could only refer the Lesotho Times to the right person to comment on Thursday (today).

MG Health produces medical cannabis at its Marakabei facility in the Maseru district. It is a leading player in the medical cannabis industry in Lesotho.

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