Bokang Machabe, an inspector at the firm, told thepost this week that a decision has already been taken to lay off 21 employees. The company currently employs 56 people.
Machabe is one of those who have been told he will be retrenched, 11 years after he joined the struggling government-owned company. He said employees affected by the looming retrenchments are from the finance, operations and security departments.
The massive job cuts come after cabinet said the firm should resolve its financial and operational issues if it is to avoid going under. These include repairing vehicles, paying water bills and filing taxes with the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA).
The new changes also warrant the company to improve the salaries of workers – at least those who will be lucky enough to hold on to their jobs. “We were given funds in March this year but there were delays in the disbursement by more than three months,” Machabe said.
He said he was one of those at the forefront of demanding accountability with the money and when it would be processed. Machabe said the workers have been restless in demanding answers from management on the timeframe for the distribution of the money.
But they got the shock of their lives when they were told they would be retrenched instead. Machabe said they were told that the last people to be hired would be the first ones to be retrenched.
Also, those who are left with a few years before retirement and those who are idling in the company because there is no longer any work for them would be kicked out.
Machabe started working at the company in 2008 as an inspector and his job description includes checking the fleet and performance of the drivers. His work also entails checking the roadworthiness of buses.
“We are only two inspectors there and we have both been served with retrenchment letters,” he said.
“Principal Secretary (Thabo Motoko) said we will return to work when the corporation performs well but we do not have tangible written proof supporting that,” Machabe said.
He said the retrenchment exercise lacked transparency as some workers hired in 2010 are not being retrenched despite the publicly stated “last in first out policy”.
“This includes people who do not have work who are just roaming in there,” he said.
Machabe claimed that the selection criteria was politically motivated as those being targeted were hired by the previous government led by Pakalitha Mosisili back in 2008. He said they are being labelled as congress movement supporters who should be booted out and “that is exactly what is being done”.
He said the corporation has hired inexperienced transport officers, some who only obtained a Standard 6 qualification yet the position requires people who are qualified in transport management.
He blamed management for failing to repair buses and footing water bills. He said back in 2008, the company had a fleet of 23 buses and in 2015 they were given money to buy six more buses.
Yet, a few years on, the firm is just left with three functional buses. He said the other buses have been reduced to wrecks. “Those buses required repairs using the M5 million given (by the government) but that never happened,” he said.
In November last year, the government bailed out the company to the tune of M3 million. The decision to bail out the corporation came barely four months after the parent Ministry of Public Transport announced that the company was sinking in debts and urgently needed about M4.4 million.
It was then announced that the corporation owed over M855 000 in salary arrears for 54 employees who had not been paid since April 2018. The company had also failed to pay close to M170 000 terminal benefits to its former employees.
Further, the company had not paid close to a million Maloti to the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) in Pay as Your Earn (PAYE) taxes. It also needed over M1.8 million to pay creditors. Company management refused to comment, saying only Motoko could respond to such issues. Motoko declined to comment.