â€¦gives health workers a 30-minute ultimatum to return to work
Tensions rose this week when Health Minister, Selibe Mochoboroane, told â€˜protestingâ€™ health workers they had 30 minutes to return to work or face the legal wrath of the government.
According to the shocked health professionals, Minister Mochoboroane pulled the Public Service Act card, and they were left backed to a corner.
His â€˜adamant and stark’ ultimatum shocked the health workers who were anticipating positive feedback from the minister.
The exchange happened during a brief 30-minute meeting attended by health professionals working in the remote mountainous districts of Mokhotlong, Thaba Tseka, and Qachaâ€™s Nek.
Tanki Ranthimo, the representative of the health professionals, expressed their apprehension after this meeting and the subsequent demand by the Minister.
Ranthimo revealed that during the meeting on Tuesday, Mochoboroane directly addressed the health professionals.
He said their previous meetings were with the Ministryâ€™s Principal Secretary (PS) and other Ministry officials over the weekend.
“we were shocked”
Ranthimo said in the wake of their conversations with the PS, a memorandum was written and circulated, instructing the professionals to resume their duties while their concerns were being handled by the ministry, however, it was a shocker when they saw a turning point that came during the meeting with Mochoboroane.
â€œThe Minister point blank told that our actions are perceived as a total shutdown,â€ Ranthimo said, adding that in an alarming move, the Minister imposed a tight 30-minute window for them to return to work after his departure, warning of severe consequences otherwise.
â€œHe cited the Public Services Act and said its sections strictly prohibit civil servants from engaging in strikes. We were shocked.â€
â€œOur immediate response was to comply and return to work as instructed after the Minister departed.
â€œUnfortunately our underlying concerns remain unresolved,â€ Ranthimo remarked.
He emphasised that the memorandum issued by the Ministry of Health did not accurately reflect their agreement with the PS.
Their primary condition for returning to work, he said, was to have concrete evidence that their grievances were being actively addressed.
This included obtaining documents that demonstrated that their concerns had been officially brought to the attention of the Ministry of Public Service.
â€œWe continued with the strike even after the memo was released because its contents did not align with our negotiated terms. We had clearly informed the PS that we required substantial proof that our issues were being dealt with before we would resume work.
â€œHowever, the memo was issued without providing us with the necessary evidence, which led us to stay on strike until the Minister intervened with an ultimatum,â€ Ranthimo explained.
A memorandum addressed to District Medical Officers and department heads, signed by the PS, outlined the ministryâ€™s efforts to address the health professionalsâ€™ concerns.
It detailed a meeting that took place from August 19 to August 20, 2023, involving the ministry Management team, the Lesotho Nursing representative, and the LEWA representative.
The meeting discussed issues such as the increase in hardship allowances due to prevailing challenges at duty stations.
The memorandum mentioned that the Ministry of Health had formally requested the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Employment to review and revise the hardship allowance rates. The Ministry of Health was awaiting a response to this request.
The PS also highlighted in the memorandum that the staff in Mokhotlong district had voiced concerns about their welfare. Many of them were not receiving hardship allowances, retention allowances, or salary increments, and were not confirmed into permanent and pensionable positions.
The memorandum emphasized the importance of the staffâ€™s concerns and assured that their issues would be addressed comprehensively. It conveyed the ministry management teamâ€™s commitment to providing feedback on their requests once a response was received from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Employment.
The health professionals from the three districtsâ€”Mokhotlong, Thaba Tseka, and Qachaâ€™s Nekâ€”have united in their demand for an increase in their hardship allowances from M275 to M500.