(MENAFN- The Post)
MASERU – One of Lesotho's biggest textile companies with 6 000 employees, Precious Garments, is threatening to retrench workers following what it says is a massive slump in business.
The planned retrenchment could dump thousands of Basotho on the jobless heap at a time when the country is grappling with severe unemployment.
In a letter written on 11 January 2023, the company said the on-going economic meltdown triggered by the Russia-Ukraine war“has adversely affected the market”.
As a result of the economic headwinds posed by the war, the company says it is likely to retrench workers from the beginning of this year.
“A glimpse of job shortages was observed during the just ended festive season where people who were engaged to do special and urgent orders had to be sent back home earlier than the agreed timeframe,” the letter reads.
“There are clear signs that more of such incidents will replicate themselves,” it said.
“Experts have advised that the crisis is likely to last for the better part of 2023.”
The company said to stay afloat, it is now pleading with workers to take voluntary retrenchment.
It also said all workers who have exceeded the statutory retirement age of 60 should approach management to initiate arrangements that could lead to a mutually agreed termination plan.
The company says the proposal is in line with recommendations from buyers who have advised them not to recruit people who have reached the statutory retirement age.
It says more proposals will be made as the year continues adding that extensive consultations will be made to all who will be affected by the retrenchment.
“Therefore the company wishes to inform all relevant stakeholders of the said development,” it said.
“The schedule of engagement is going to be released soon.”
However, the Deputy Secretary General of the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL), May Rathakane, has dismissed the planned retrenchment as a ruse.
He said the company is in the habit of threatening workers with retrenchments every time they are supposed to review salaries.
“They did it for the past two years,” Rathakane said, adding that“it has been a challenge for years”.
“This is just a strategy to threaten the employees who are demanding a hike on their salaries under the pretext that the business is bad,” he said.
“This has been happening almost during the same time for the last two years.”
Rathakane said the factory has written them a second letter suggesting that it is going to put the employees on short-term contracts.
He said they know that the economy is bad and they cannot shun away from the reality that businesses are struggling.
“But what the firm is saying has serious implications,” he said.
The National Clothing, Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU) Secretary General, Sam Mokhele, said they are aware of the letter from the factory.
“This is bad news especially because there are already some people who have been retrenched,” he said.
He said the factory has warned the workers to brace for more retrenchments.