The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is gutted by Lesotho’s outrageous decision to dismiss (with immediate effect) 346 nurses, mostly specialist nurses, at Lesotho’s only tertiary healthcare facility on Friday the 12th of March 2021, in a row over salary disputes.
Nurses from the small Southern African country’s main hospital in the capital, Maseru, went on strike to press the government-owned Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) to give them the same salaries as their counterparts in other government and private institutions. Opened in 2011, QMMH is state-owned but run by the Tšepong Consortium, comprising five companies, namely Netcare Healthcare Group and Afri’nnai of South Africa, and Excel Health, Women Investment, and D10 Investments of Lesotho. Last month, the Lesotho Nurses Association (LNA) said QMMH nurses were paid about R9 000 p/m, at least R4 000 p/m less than their counterparts in other government-run hospitals, who were paid at least R13,000 p/m.
While the strike was crippling the already ailing health sector, which faced a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections after Christmas, the sackings will have a dire effect on the already strained healthcare system, filtering additional strain into bordering South Africa as well.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, Lesotho’s health system had struggled under high rates of tuberculosis, HIV, and Aids-related illnesses. These expulsions will have a disastrous effect on the health system, given that Lesotho’s hospitals were already understaffed.
This is an unacceptable and blatant ill-treatment of workers, and we demand the nurses’ immediate reinstatement. Workers cannot lose their jobs and subsequently their livelihood because of demanding better salaries. The Federation condemns the Lesotho government for its disregard of the working people’s right to be heard.
We call on all our Comrades and friends in the region to offer solidarity and support to the dismissed workers and ensure that this employer does not undermine workers’ right to refuse paltry salaries during these trying times. Dismissing them does not solve the problem.