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MMB employees down tools

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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’Marafaele Mohloboli

MALUTI Mountain Brewery (MMB) workers have downed tools to push for a 15 percent salary increment.

The strike was organised by the labour union, the Lesotho Brewing and Allied Workers’ Union (LEBAWU). This after the workers and their employer failed to agree on a wage increment. The company had offered a 4, 6 percent increment while the workers wanted a massive 15 percent hike.

The workers began their job action by picketing outside the company offices at the Maseru industrial area on Monday. They vowed to press on with the strike until the company met their wage demands or agreed to sit at the negotiating table with them.

Speaking on the matter, LEBAWU spokesperson, Fokothi Thite, said they had resorted to striking after lengthy talks with MMB since last year failed to yield positive results.

“Going on strike was our last option after realising that our employer was not forthcoming,” Mr Thithe said.

He said initially the workers were demanding a 20 percent increase but they climbed down to 15 percent after MMB refused to honour their demands.

He said the company refused to barge on its offer of a 4, 6 percent increment which was way below the eight percent inflation rate.

The workers also complained that their salaries were reduced by 10 percent in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The employer said this (salary reduction) would save employees from being sent home due to a decline in business owing to Covid-19, and we understood that. We were told it was for Covid relief. This means that there was no increment at all that year.

“Management also informed us that a similar deduction was made at sister companies across Africa. However, we later learnt that it is not true.

“We were keen to engage the management as we were of the view that the talks were bona fide, hence we even compromised and lowered our demand down to 16 percent from the initial 20 percent. Sadly, that was still not good enough for the employer and that is the reason why we have gone on strike,” Mr Thite said.

Contacted for comment, MMB Legal and Corporate Affairs Manager, ’Mapulumo Mosisili, assured clients that they would be enough supplies for the festive season.

She said despite the strike, MMB had things under control and it had made contingency plans to ensure production was not negatively impacted ahead of the festive period.

“The lines of communication with the union are open and will remain open. As a company, we respect the right of employees to strike. The strikers are enjoined by labour laws to exercise this right peacefully, and with due respect for the rights of other employees who choose to work,” Ms Mosisili said.

She said MMB management had placed a fair offer of 4, 6 percent on the table, based on the performance of the company, which had not been spared by the tough economic situation.

“As management, we believe the strike is not in the best interests of the union members or for the company. As such, we hope the union will return to the negotiating table where lasting solutions can be found,” Ms Mosisili said.