The Minister of Trade, Mokhethi Shelile, and Minster of Labour, Richard Ramoeletsi, this week missed an opportunity to engage with the labour unions after both failed to show up at a planned meeting.
Organized by the Lesotho Development Corporation (LNDC), the meeting was meant to deliberate on industrial issues of concern as an initiative to resuscitate the ailing industry.
Despite the ministers’ no-show, the disappointed labour unions went ahead to voice concerns.
Among other things, they want foreign investors within the manufacturing sector to be compelled to bank locally to prevent instances of factories disappearing without paying workers.
Many factories operated by foreign investors are known to keep their money outside the country; a situation which leads to capital flight, leaving the local economy with less money circulating in it.
“We also need a clear policy for the transfer of skills to the locals. This will ensure that when the investor leaves the country, the firm will continue to be operational,” the unions said.
The unions also want the LNDC to stop turning factory shells into storage facilities.
They said: “The LNDC should not turn the industrial estates into a place of renting, regardless of the purpose of the renter. For instance, one company in Maputsoe has rented shells only to turn them into store rooms among other uses. Those places must strictly be used to fight unemployment.”
The trade unions also want to tag along with the LNDC delegation when traveling abroad to look for potential investors for Lesotho.
On his part, the Principal Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Business Development and Tourism, Thabo Moleko, said the government was working hard to find sustainable solutions to the challenges facing the industry.
“The Prime Minister has toured factory shells of closed down firms, and those factories that are considering layoffs, and the government is trying to find solutions for all these challenges within two months,” Moleko said.
Contacted for comment, Shelile said they had to attend to urgent cabinet issues.
“We had chosen a day that we knew we would be free but governance is demanding so we got locked up in cabinet business and took longer than expected.
“I desire to meet them; it is not like they are being belittled or something. Unions play an important role in the economy and we still have a lot to talk about even though there are no preparations thus far, but I would want us to talk about how we can work together on the issue of job creation, me not meeting them has nothing to do with pending salary negotiations,” Shelile said.