Last Updated: Monday, 23 October 2017, 10:48 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Lesotho

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Lesotho, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 23 October 2017]
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: 2,000,000
Capital: Maseru
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

No new developments were reported for Lesotho. Normal trade union activities are difficult to carry out despite some legal guarantees.


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.


Background: Poverty remains deep and widespread, with the United Nations describing 40% of the population as "ultrapoor". It ranks 141st place on the Human Development Index. The "Toxic Jeans" series, which highlighted the unintended consequences of efforts to stimulate trade with Africa, showed the pollution caused by the Nien Hsing denim factory in Lesotho and the dangers it posed to the local population, particularly the children.

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.

Mixed picture in the textile factories: The late General Secretary of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF), Neil Kearney, speaking in October 2009, noted that despite the problems in Lesotho's apparel industry, progress has been made. There have been significant improvements in unionised factories such as Precious Garments, where efforts have been made to develop regular dialogue and negotiation between representatives of workers and management. Serious workers' rights problems still persist in non-unionised factories however. The textile and garment industry is almost the sole source of manufacturing employment in Lesotho.

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.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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