Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 July 2014, 09:14 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Lesotho

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Lesotho, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd8893e23.html [accessed 23 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 2,171,000
Capital: Maseru

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Arrests: 2

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Legal restrictions on organising and strike action remain in place. Two union leaders were arrested during a textile workers strike. Employers' anti-union attitude is still widespread.

Background

The Finance Minister described the 2011/2012 budget as "the most difficult the government had to put together". The impoverished mountain kingdom faces a slowdown in economic growth, rising unemployment and falling revenues from migrant workers who are losing jobs in South Africa. Lesotho also faces declining agricultural production, falling life expectancy and high HIV infection rates.

Trade union rights in law

Although the law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference, high thresholds and restrictive provisions make such work difficult. Workers have the right to form and join trade unions, expect for public employees, who can only form or join "associations" that have consultative status. Moreover, union activities are hampered by requirements that only registered unions that represent more than 35% of the employees are entitled to elect workplace union representatives and have access to the workplace to communicate with management and perform other union functions. Finally, a strike can only be called following very complicated procedures, and all strikes in the public sector are illegal by definition.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

No legal strikes: Because the strike procedure is complicated, there have not been any official strikes in the country for many years. There have been regular spontaneous protest actions over the years, however. As these are technically defined as illegal, workers continue to risk losing their jobs and being taken to court.

Legislation not enforced: The country has a poor record on respecting trade union rights. In the private sector, the complex procedures and employers' anti-union attitude make it very difficult to operate a trade union. Although the law prohibits anti-union discrimination, many employers still stop union organisers from entering factory premises to organise workers or represent them in disputes. In some cases, employers intimidate union organisers and members, threatening the latter with dismissal, particularly in domestic industries.

Exploitation in Chinese run textile factories: The General Secretary of the Lesotho Congress of Democratic Unions (LECODU), Tšeliso Ramochela, has called for better labour regulations in the textile industry. Speaking during a textile workers' strike in August 2011 he warned that workers were being exploited in an industry dominated by Chinese employers. Levels of union organising have improved across the country's all-important textile industry in recent years but many employers still ignore labour laws or exploit weaknesses in the law.

Violations

Union leaders arrested and protest march cancelled: A massive protest march planned for 17 August to mark the third and final day of a strike by textile workers had to be called off after the police cancelled its authorising permit.

The textile workers, joined in solidarity by taxi operators, disgruntled youth fighting for continued tertiary education sponsorship and other civic organisations, had planned a huge march. For two days, police used water cannons and teargas to disperse the striking workers who had started organising road blocks against strike-breaking taxi drivers. On 17 August, the police arrested Daniel Maraisane, the president of the Lesotho Congress of Democratic Unions (LECODU) and the head of the Maseru Region Taxi Operators (MRTO), Mokete Jonase. Both were leading the strike.

The strike was organised to press for the textile workers' demand an increase in their minimum wage, medical aid, full paid maternity leave, compensation for occupational diseases and other benefits.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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