The Lesotho labour court has granted the Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital an interim interdict, effectively ending a two-week-long health workers industrial action.

More than 300 health workers had been picketing in protest to the employer’s failure to implement a salary structure review, outstanding COVID-19 payments, and incentives.

The employees say the employer wants to use the court as a quick-fix to a complex and protracted dispute. “The alleged strike action is alleged to have commenced on the first and being aware of that on the first, they come to court on the 22nd,” argued the defence’s advocate Nthati Pheko.

The applicant’s advocate Napo Khatala said, “It is also in the best interest of everyone involved, the employer, the employees as well as the patients that the work stoppage must be interdicted legally because it serves no one in the long term.

The judge and both assessors say this is a long-standing matter; it is, therefore, urgent and must be argued to its finality. Let it be reiterated in the clearest of terms that an amicable settlement, an ever last solution to whatever disputes that exist between the parties herein must be reached sooner rather than later because this is an essential services sector.”

The Public-Private Partnership Hospital shares are owned by private consortiums, Lesotho Government, and run entirely run by Netcare South Africa.

“Where did you see Netcare pay people half the salary of what the government is paying, it is only in this country and we can’t allow them to do that to our own people,” says Lesotho Nurses Association’s Mamonica Mokhesi.

To all stakeholders, this verdict might be the beginning of an end to an almost decade-long dispute.

But, for now, it is back work for health workers:

Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour Moshe Leoma has agreed and signed the memorandum from a coalition of Health of Professionals admitting to providing his full support in resolving this dispute.