Lesotho: Civil Servants Issue Ultimatum Over Salaries

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10 February 2024

...threaten to sue govt if it doesn't meet their demands within a week

Seithati Motsoeneng

CIVIL servants have given the government a week's ultimatum to honour its "promise" to award them a 25 percent salary increment failing which they will go to court for an enforcement order.

This ultimatum comes after Last Friday's meeting between the government and the Coalition of Lesotho Public Employees (COLEPE) which allegedly did not yield any positive results.

In an interview with the Lesotho Times, COLEPE's secretary general, Motebang Leboela, said they were convinced the government was playing delaying tactics after it asked for more time to address the 25 percent issue. COLEPE claims the government had made a commitment to increase their salaries by 25 percent.

Ms Leboela said they had expected the Friday meeting to resolve the issue.

"Our Friday meeting was meant to reach a consensus on our 25 percent salary hike, but the government kept on pleading for an extension of time, without stipulating the amount of time they needed. This resulted in senseless arguments," said Ms Leboela.

"We have therefore decided to give them a week's ultimatum until 1 February 2024 to address the matter since it has been dragging for far too long."

COLEPE consists of the Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA), Lesotho Public Service Staff Association (LEPSSA), Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT), Lesotho Teachers Trade Union (LTTU), Lesotho Nurses Association (LNA), Qiloane Nursing Assistants Association (QNAA) and Lesotho Schools Principals Association (LeSPA). It is the largest single grouping of civil servants.

The coalition had tabled its grievances before Prime Minister Sam Matekane in 2022 when he first assumed the office. The government then formulated a Public Bargaining Council (PBC) which engaged the COLEPE representatives in December last year.

However, COLEPE claims there has not been any agreement reached to date, hence its frustrations.

Ms Leboela said they were now left with no option but to drag the government to court if their demands are not met by 1 February 2024.

"This will leave us with no choice but to escalate the issue to the Labour Court as the government is reluctant to increase our salaries," Ms Leboela said

She accused the PBC of failing to finalize discussions or at least make a counter offer.

"The least they could have done is to make a counter offer of say 15 percent, if they feel they cannot afford the whole amount then we agree on when they can effect the other 10 percent.....," she said.

"We don't necessarily believe that the government is broke. Just recently, they inflated the cabinet within a blink of eye. That was done at a huge cost ...They had money for it because it served their own political interests."

Contacted for comment, Minister of Public Service, Steven Mputi, maintained that his ministry was still dealing with COLEPE's demands but they required time.

"Our understating is that there's still a need for further engagements because the issue at hand goes beyond just reaching an agreement. A lot of things need to be discussed. Negotiations cannot be given timelines as they involve a lot of things which we need to consider before we reach a consensus," said Mr Mputi.

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