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Polihali workers threaten to halt project

Polihali Dam in Mokhotlong

Aug. 8, 2019 3 min read

MASERU – Contracted labourers building roads and pipelines at the Polihali Dam in Mokhotlong, have threatened to down tools and stop the project if their grievances are not promptly addressed by relevant authorities.

The Construction, Mining, Quarrying and Allied Workers (CMQ) association has meanwhile pledged its support to its members in their fight to attaining their rightful wages and benefits from the tendered companies. The tendered companies comprise LSP Construction, Nthane Brothers, WBHO and Sino Hydro.The Polihali Dam is a Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) project that offered tenders to the four major construction companies to build road networks at the construction site.These are the same companies that CMQ accused of jointly violating the government gazette by underpaying its workers.

“Workers demand that their salaries be adjusted in accordance with the gazetted wages. We have learnt that an unskilled operator was being paid only M207 per day while the actual gazette wage is M280 (minimum wage) and that a skilled labourer was rightfully supposed to be paid M122 per day but currently earns only M98,” protested CMQ secretary general, Robert Mokhahlane. Mr Mokhahlane added: “It is shameful for a contracted worker to be paid a minimum wage of slightly above M1, 000 because that is not sufficient to sustain a livelihood. The international regulations which Lesotho party to, clearly point out that a decent job should provide a worker with a sustainable life and receive benefits at the end. So, our view is that the companies in question deliberately chose to ignore these basic needs.”

He said in March they notified the LHDA divisional manager phase II Tente Tente about these issues, but to date their grievances had not been addressed.“Mr Tente has never responded to our call,” he charged. CMQ also wanted a company named SETLOBOX (trending as Crossmoor) to be kicked out of the project, claiming it was not lawfully registered in Lesotho to operate as a recruiting broker for the above joint venture companies.

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“The Labour Commission should explain how Crossmoor was recruited. Foreign brokers are fond of disappearing with employees’ investment funds and we can take example of what happened during the construction of the Katse Dam,” he said.

Mr Mokhahlane said workers were ready to stage a protest and down tools any time and warned related authorities to address their laid distresses immediately. He said otherwise the association would be forced to take the matter to the courts of law should there be unnecessary delays.

In its reply via a press release issued on Monday, LHDA rebuffed the allegations by showing that a professional monitoring the work of contractors had assured them that after inspection by the Ministry of Labour, workers were paid in line with the law.

The press statement showed that the LHDA was in the process of investigating claims that labour wages were not in accordance with the gazette. “That company called SETLOBOX worked under WBHO – LSP joint venture as a sub-contractor responsible for loading soil, stones and for hauling, among others, and was not a labour broker,” the statement also showed.

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