By: Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – The Coalition of Lesotho Public Employees (COLEPE) had sharply criticised the recently tabled budget estimates for 2024/2025 saying they do not talk to them.

COLEPE representative, Letsatsi Ntsibolane who is the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT) Secretary-General said that a proposed increase of 2% by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Dr Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane is a “curse” to the workforce.

COLEPE comprises of Lesotho Police Staff Association (LEPOSA), Lesotho Public Servants Association (LEPSSA), LAT, Lesotho Schools Principal Association (LEPSA), Lesotho Nurses Association (LNA) and Qiloane Nursing Assistants Association (QINUASA).

“It is unfortunate. It is by the people who don’t love this country,” he fumed accusing the government of boycotting salary negotiations meetings with them.

The Minister said the government is planning to increase civil servants salaries by 2% across the board contrary to anticipated 25% upward adjustment.

“I wish to reiterate that whilst it is important to have the wage bill reduced to acceptable levels, the Government recognises that comprehensive public sector reforms are necessary, which include improving the welfare of the staff and their capabilities to manage, lead and perform their technical duties.

“As I indicated that we are in a tight fiscal situation in the medium-term, but despite this, the automatic notch increase will be accommodated which accounts for 2.5 percent plus 2 percent salary adjustment across the board. The tax credit and the tax brackets will be adjusted accordingly,” she said.

The coalition met the government on February 3 and 23rd 2023, where the government resolved to work with COLEPE over the salaries increment issues.

Then the government said: “…owing to a dry Government purse, the 25% demand cannot be met in the 2023/2024 Fiscal Year. [However,] the Government commits to employ strategies that will revive and increase revenue in the foregoing Fiscal Year and, therefore commits to expedite the formation of Public Sector Bargaining Council: a platform necessary for bargaining in November 2023 in preparation for the 2024/2025 salary increase as demanded by COLEPE.”

Meanwhile, Dr Matlanyane said the government intends to trim the wage bill from 18.5% to 14%.

The planned picket by COLEPE associations over 25% salary increase that was planned to take place last Friday was thwarted owing and amongst others was that police cannot embark on industrial action, meanwhile they are part of the coalition through their organization, LEPOSA.

Ntsibolane said they will not backtrack on their demand for a 25% increase adding that they have even approached the courts for the permit to picket against the government.