Monday, July 2, 2012

Metolong Dam, Lesotho: Local labor dispute with Sinohydro

Thahane wants labour relations officer for Metolong
Sunday Express (Lesotho)
2 July 2012, Caswell Tlali

MASERU � Water Affairs Minister Timothy Thahane has ordered the Metolong
Authority to hire a labour relations officer who will be directly
answerable to him after a bloody clash between workers and bosses last week.

Thahane has also ordered the Metolong Authority to resuscitate the
security committee which comprises the police, the authortiy and
workers� representatives to avoid a repeat of last week�s mishaps.

The authority has also been instructed to ensure that there is a police
post near the Metolong Dam construction site.

"I have ordered the Metolong Authority to do these things because it is
important for us to avoid the unfortunate things that happened during
this week," Thahane said.

"It is important for us to handle the construction of this much needed
dam with care."

Thahane's directives to the Metolong Authority after employers of a
Chinese company hired to construct the dam stoned and injured bosses
during a pay dispute.

Sinohydro Corporation�s manager Song Yi Jun sustained some serious
injuries and was admitted to hospital for two days after he was hit with
stones by angry employees on Monday.

Also injured in the violent confrontation was Hlalefang Seoaholimo, the
national organiser of the Lesotho Workers Association (Lewa).

Matters came to a head on Monday after Song allegedly reneged on an
agreement to award a salary increment to the striking workers.

The workers allege that Sinohydro Corporation had last Friday agreed to
give the workers a M3 increment for every hour worked.

But at a meeting which was addressed by Seoaholimo on Monday, Song
allegedly reneged on the agreement and told the workers the company
could only afford a M1 increment per every hour worked.

This incensed the workers who started pelting Song with stones.

Workers at Sinohydro Corporation are said to be currently earning M6.20
per hour.

They are demanding M18.88 per hour for the lowest paid worker.

Thahane had earlier visited the construction site in an attempt to
negotiate a peaceful end to the stand-off.

"The construction of Metolong Dam is very important to Basotho and I
want the strike settled and the construction of the dam completed on
time," Thahane said to the workers.

He urged the workers' union to negotiate with the employer while workers
continued with their work.

Sinohydro Corporation is a Chinese-owned construction company that has
been tasked with building the M540 million Metolong Dam project.

The project is expected to end in 2014.

[Background Note: On June 22, 2012 Lesotho media had reported that
Sinohydro had agreed to double workers� daily food allowances, and give
workers transport allowances of M20 and food allowances of M10.]

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