business

April 29, 2022

NEO SENOKO

2 min read

Job losses loom at Chinese road firm

Job losses loom at Chinese road firm

The Ha Mpiti to Sehlabathebe road under construction

Story highlights

  • Labour union threatens court battle
  • Company says only teams recalled after pay-weekend should report for duty

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AN undisclosed number of employees working on the M1.8 billion Mpiti-Sehlabathebe Road in Qacha’s Nek stand to lose their jobs following government’s failure to pay Chinese company Qingjing Group.

Qingjing Group has since issued a notice of intent to lay-off the workers due to financial difficulties, saying a continued delay of release of funds by government was the reason for the job losses.

In a savingram dated April 25, 2022, the company said only teams recalled after pay-weekend should report for duty. It said other teams should remain at home until further notice.

Mining and Quarrying Allied Workers Union (CMQ) general secretary Robert Mokhahlane told Metro on Wednesday that the lay-offs were unjustified and unlawful.

He said the Labour Code clearly stipulated that government could only award a tender to a company that should be able to pay salaries to its employees should there be a delay in the release of funds.    

“Secondly, we regard the intended lay-offs as an indirect retrenchment because the employer did not mention the length of time the workers will be out of work,” Mr Mokhahlane said.

“We are going to engage by taking this matter to court should the company persist to proceed with the illegal lay-offs.”

The road is one of the key infrastructure projects being undertaken as a collaborative effort between the Lesotho and Chinese governments, facilitated through the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

The Export-Import (EXIM) Bank of China provided a concessional loan of M1.3 billion to fund the 91-kilometre- road project while the Lesotho government injected an additional M500 million to bring the total cost of the project to M1.8 billion.

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Other FOCAC projects include the Maseru Hospital and Eye Clinic that is to replace Queen Elizabeth II Hospital as well as the construction of the Hlotse multi-million dam amongst others.

In August 2020, when the Minister of Development Planning, Selibe Mochoboroane visited the area, the project was already eight months behind schedule.

However, Mr Mochoboroane had then argued that the project was still on track as 19 percent of the work had already been done.

Director of Project Cycle Management (PCM) Mothobi Letooane said the project was delaying due to the Covid-19 pandemic that ended in a lock-down.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

While subcontractors have been unhappy with the payments, the main contractor has also complained that the workers were slow.

The project will be a seven-metre-wide double-lane road after completion. It will shorten the drive time from Mpiti to Sehlabathebe from four hours to about one and half hours.

It is expected that the road will solve transport woes and attract tourism to the area.

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