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Jonsson hails workers’ impact in 20-year growth

Business

Sekete Lesaoana

Jonsson Manufacturing company commemorated its 20th anniversary of operating in Lesotho by honouring the workers who made it all possible.

The work wear manufacturer, which originates from South Africa, opened business in Lesotho in 2002 with just 70 workers but today employs 4500 people.

The Maputsoe- based factory last week showered its longest-serving staffers with various gifts to recognize their efforts in building the company into being the largest textile sector employer in the country.

Ten employees, consisting of nine women and a man, who have been with the company from day one, were each presented with a live cow courtesy of company founder, Nick Jonsson.

They were also each presented with an apple tree, which Jonsson implored them to plant and take care of them as they would bear fruits for many years to come. The idea is for them to remember their association with the Jonsson brand each time they eat the fruits of the tree.

The employees were also presented with long-service awards and certificates and other presents.

There was also a raffle for all employees where various prizes including a car, flat-screen televisions, bicycle and kitchen utensils were won.

In an interview with Newsday on the sidelines of the company’s 20th-anniversary commemoration, Jonsson said the secret behind the growth of his business was his dignified treatment of the workers.

“One must treat people as they want to be treated, and when you give people your heart it is more valuable than money, Jonsson said.

“If I walk into a business I would want to be treated well with dignity, and respect and I would like to be given an opportunity, so I try my best to do that for my people.”

He said he was blessed with a group of hard-working employees who leave it all on the floor for the business.

“We have a team of people that work hard every day to make sure that we always exceed our expectations.

“How we win, we make sure that everything we do is way beyond what is expected and customers like that and they respect what we do and they like what we offer them.

He said as much as possible, the company tries to avoid temporary layoffs or retrenchments.

“Sometimes the force of the market is against you, but then we have had a good history here.

“I started here with a team of 70 people but now there are 6000 people (including South African-based staff) and it’s a team effort. It did not happen by itself, it’s not only me it’s every single person who is my employee working in my business. We work hard and perform at a high standard.”

On his part, Antoni Barker, the managing director of Jonsson Manufacturing, said the company’s remarkable growth from 70 to over 4000 employees was worth celebrating.

“To have such a successful business and the things Nick and the team do, the things which I appreciate the most is the excellent marketing of the brand which Nick Jonsson and the team do in Durban because without that we are dead and we can’t do nothing. My job is manufacturing and without that marketing and technical works and brand name and everything we won’t have work and we will go to short time.”

“I always tell the factory managers if they fail since we have six factories, they actually fail the people and those people will have to go home. So their success is not for Nick Jonsson or money salaries, they do it to grow the company and have a successful business that will employ more people,” Barker said.

He further said despite challenges like water supply which costs them about M350 000 a month to transport for basic needs in the factory, the business environment is good. He said the electricity in Lesotho is excellent compared to South Africa and they have good relations with the police.

Barker said Jonsson tries to be at par with the lives of the employees, they feed them a morning meal like porridge or soup whatever they prefer and many other things that happen above their normal bonuses, they have a funeral benefit that the firm pays for an employee that amounts to M5000. The firm also runs a clinic with five full-time nurses and two doctors that are there for two days and one social worker.

‘Mamajone Rapulane, one of the employees who started with the company twenty years ago, said there were just 16 workers in the factory when she arrived.

“We were struggling when we started. When we reached 31 people I was taken to Durban for two weeks and three days learning work wear and how the firm operates.

“When we reached 65 people, I was advised to seek other supervisors as the workload was increasing. We have been given a chance of better living here and we have employed our families, through this work here I have taken my children to school and I fend for myself like any other woman.”

Rapulane said their boss is good because when the workers demand a salary increase he obliges. She expressed excitement over the presents from the company saying she never thought her employer would go this far in rewarding them.

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