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Workers strike over slave wages at Crabtree in Lesotho

8 May, 2014A strike led by the Factory Workers’ Union (FAWU) at Crabtree Lesotho, has entered its third week as the electrical accessories manufacturer stubbornly refuses to negotiate with the union.

About 100 workers downed tools on 22 April after securing the right to strike on their demands for higher wages. Currently workers earn about USD105 a month, in part due to the low minimum wage in Lesotho, which is far below a living wage.

Crabtree started its operations in the tiny landlocked nation, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa, in July 2007. The company, which makes electrical accessories such as plugs and extension cords for export to the SADC (Southern African Development Community) market, is based in South Africa where it has another manufacturing plant.

Workers have received no salary increase on demands dating back to 2010, despite promises from management that wages would be reviewed. Workers are demanding a 30 per cent increase and are resolved to remain firm on this given the number of years they have gone with no increment.

FAWU, an IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, has taken the matter up with the Directorate of Disputes Prevention and Resolution (DDPR) and the Labour Court. The legal processes took over a year to conclude with the right to strike on the matter finally secured. However, Crabtree has now approached the court for an order to lock out the workers.

“Despite having secured the right to strike, management is ignoring the union and refusing to negotiate with us,” says FAWU organiser Thapelo Bohloko.  “We are determined because workers cannot keep earning such low wages and will explore all avenues of support for this reasonable demand.”

The Sub Saharan African office of IndustriALL will focus efforts on the living wage campaign in Lesotho and hopes to engage employers and government to improve the situation, supporting calls from organized labour for a higher minimum wage and through company level negotiations to secure better wages.