LEC staff plan full-blown strike

FamCast News
22 days ago

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‘Mantšali Phakoana

Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) staff have threatened to embark on a full-blown strike if their 2023/2024 financial year bonuses are not paid by end of this month.

This after the company failed to honour its promise that the employees’ bonuses would be disbursed last month, due to lack of funds.

To show their seriousness, the workers commenced a go-slow on Friday last week. Amndsaljkndsjak.hdkajsads

After the LEC still failed to honour its pledge made by the cash-strapped company’s managing director, Mohlomi Seitlheko, last year, the workers are now threatening to embark on a full-blown strike if their bonuses are still not paid.

Sources within the company told this publication this week that Seitlheko on Friday convened an urgent meeting with the intention of addressing the staff’s grievances and pleading with them to proceed with their duties.

But instead of getting the positive feedback they desperate yearned for, Seitlheko is said to have informed the staff that the company would not be able to pay the bonuses this month as promised because it was facing severe financial difficulties.

He reportedly further told the staff that he would however, ask the government through the ministry of finance and development planning to bailout the company to enable it to pay the bonuses. He did not mention any specific timeline, the sources said.

“We are disappointed because the commitment was made by the managing director. While we were expecting to hear when our bonuses would be paid, last week Friday he (Seitlheko) told us that the company was facing serious financial woes.

“All we want is our bonuses and everything will go back to normal. It does not have to get to a point where we embark on a full-blown strike because the public would be the ones to suffer.

“Last Friday we decided to embark on a go slow. It was just the beginning of the worst, and a demonstration that we are dissatisfied. The company should look at other ways to get the money to pay us. Otherwise, the public is the one to suffer the consequences,” a source noted.

Another source indicated that the staff had waited until knock-off time on Friday with the expectation that Seitlheko would report positive news to them.

“Following our meeting, he said he was going to ask for money from the minister of finance (Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane). We waited there until around 5pm, hoping he would come back with good news but he later promised to update us on Wednesday or Thursday this week.

“We are hopeful that everything will go accordingly, because what we need now is the money. The costs of living have drastically increased and the bonuses will make a difference in our lives.

“If the company does not pay our bonuses by the end of this month, we have decided to put tools down. It would not be proper that the public will first have to suffer in order for us to get what is rightfully ours. However, we would be left with no other option but to demonstrate our grievances that way,” he said.

The public relations manager of the ministry of finance, Keneuoe Mojaki, yesterday told theReporter that she was not aware of any negotiations between the ministry and LEC.

Mojaki however, emphasised that a government bailout to the struggling power utility was impossible as the ministry only allocates funds that were budgeted in that particular financial year.

The Lesotho Workers’ Association, to which some of the staffers are affiliated, was not available for comment yesterday by the time of going to press as their phone rang unanswered.

Contacted for comment this week, LEC public relations manager, Tšepang Ledia, said he was not aware of the planned strike.

Ledia indicated that Seitlheko had told the employees that he would defer the bonuses payments to December this year, latest.

He noted the bonuses were supposed to be paid this month but the company had to use the budgeted funds to address the challenge of electricity generation at ‘Muela Hydropower Station.

According to Ledia, the company pays M70 000 per a day for generation of electricity at the station, while South Africa electricity company Eskom charges the country M1.5 million per day for the same task.

“Eskom tariffs are high, especially during winter. They charge us M5.89 per unit, while the same unit is worth 12 cents at ‘Muela.

“You will understand that in a case where we encounter problems with ‘Muela, LEC has to urgently address these to avoid hefty charges by Eskom.

“I was not even supposed to respond to this matter because it is still an internal affair. The MD (Seitlheko) is still in negotiations with the government, board and staff to see how best they can tackle the matter.

“He has not declined to fulfil his commitment, but he only asked to postpone the bonuses, latest by December. Negotiations are underway, meaning the bonuses could even be paid sooner than expected,” Ledia said.

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