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Union busting attempt suspected at Lesotho Johnson Controls

10 February, 2015Lesotho Johnson Controls has unfairly dismissed 50 workers at the end of January 2015, all of whom are members of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the National Union of Textile (Nutex), raising concerns that trade union rights as well as labour rights are being violated. 

The unfair dismissals are on the grounds that the workers have failed to make the grade during their probation period. Yet the law in Lesotho requires that a contract must be in place with the worker stipulating the probation period which may not exceed four months. None of the dismissed workers had contracts with Johnson Controls and some had worked for the company for longer than four months.

The dismissals come after Nutex submitted demands to the company and expected to begin negotiation that would secure union recognition as well as wage increases and other benefits. Machine operators at the company earn only about USD100 a month whilst quality control workers earn more than double this.

“Workers feel that they should not be such a huge gap between the two categories of workers”, says Solong Senohe, Nutex General Secretary. “Machine operators are earning less than even a subsistence wage in Lesotho and yet without them there is no product, they at least deserve a living wage.” 

Johnson Controls employs about 600 workers in Lesotho and about 350 are union members. Senohe is concerned that the dismissals may have been an attempt to push the union below the 50 per cent plus one threshold needed for recognition. At the very least, the dismissals may intimidate the remaining workers to back off from their demands.

IndustriALL has written to management in Lesotho and urged the company to reinstate the dismissed workers immediately, recognise Nutex and negotiate with the union to address the worker demands. IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina has warned,

Our global union family includes several other unions organising in your operations across the globe. These unions can be called upon for support should the issues at Johnson Controls remain unresolved in Lesotho.

Meanwhile the General Secretary of IndustriALL affiliate the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), Irvin Jim has also sent a letter to the company drawing attention to global agreements that IndustriALL has with several auto companies that source from Johnson Controls that have committed themselves to working with suppliers and observing fair labour practices. 

"The conduct of Johnson Controls in Lesotho clearly violates the principles that we have agreed upon and we do not want you to become an agenda item at our international meetings this year to discuss the implementation of the agreements." says Jim. "In the event that this matter is not amicably resolved, we will be left with no option but to call for an international campaign against Johnson Controls. We are informing our members in Johnson Controls South Africa and the companies you are supplying here about the situation in Lesotho."