Trade Unions

Freedom to Join and Form a Union

The Constitution guarantees freedom of association and gives everyone the “right to enjoy their freedom to associate with other persons for ideological, religious, political, economic, labor, social, cultural, recreational and similar purposes”. Constitution of Lesotho further commits the State to “take appropriate steps in order to encourage the formation of independent trade unions to protect workers' rights and interests and to promote sound labour relations and fair employment practices”.

The Labour Code has given every person the right to participate in forming a trade union, to join and to participate in its lawful activities. It also prohibits discrimination and dismissal based on the previously mentioned activities. Right of association is guaranteed to all including agriculture workers. Labour Code requires registration of trade unions with the registrar. Two or more trade unions or employer organizations may join to form a federation. Worker and employer organizations have the right to affiliate with their respective international organizations. A young worker from the age of 15 years may join a trade union however he/she cannot become member of executive committee before attaining the age of 21 years.

Labour Code is applicable to all except the following: Royal Lesotho Defence Force; Royal Lesotho Mounted Police; any other disciplined force; and such category or class of public officer as specified by the Minister of Labour.

Source: §16 & 31 of the Constitution of Lesotho 1998; §06, 168 and 196 of the Labour Code, 1992

Freedom of Collective Bargaining

The Labour Code expressly stipulates that the employer must bargain in good faith with the trade union.

The trade union representing the employees must be registered under the rules laid down by Labour Code in order to be eligible for engaging in collective bargaining. Employers are required under the law to bargain in good faith with a representative trade union (a trade union that represents majority, i.e., more than 50%, of employees in an enterprise).

No information on the length of a collective agreement and its conclusion is found in the Labour Code.

Labour Code provides for a tripartite National Advisory Committee on Labour with three members each from worker, employer and government groups. The Committee is empowered and obligated to discuss any matter connected with labour, employment, industrial relations, working conditions or labour legislation as it sees fit, and to report to the Minister in writing upon such discussion; to consider and advise upon any proposed legislation affecting labour, employment, industrial relations or working conditions; and consider and advise upon issues addressed by tripartite regional or international conferences.

Source: §42, 171-173 and 198A of the Labour Code, 1992

Right to Strike

The Constitution has guaranteed the right of freedom of assembly.

The Labour Code defines the term Strike as the act of any number of employees who are in the employment of the same employer or of different employers, done in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute. This may involve discontinuing that employment wholly or partially; refusing or failing after any such discontinuance to resume or return to their employment; refusing or failing to accept engagement for any work in which they were or are usually employed; or in reducing their normal output on their normal rate of work, with the intent to compel the employer to agree to their demands.

The Code differentiates between disputes of rights and disputes of interest. Dispute of rights concerns validity, interpretation or existence of a collective agreement and unfair dismissals.  A collective dispute of rights cannot to be resolved through strike, lockout or other industrial action and must be resolved either by the Labor Court (unfair dismissal or unfair labor practice i.e. where a worker is dismissed for participating in a strike) or which has sole jurisdiction over such disputes, or through voluntary arbitration (disputes in relation to the interpretation of the collective agreement). On the other hand, dispute of interest concerns a trade dispute on a matter that is of mutual interest to employees. Such disputes must be attempted to be resolved through the procedures of conciliation and then arbitration, following which the workers may opt to go on strike.

A strike will only be lawful if it concerns an unresolved dispute of interest and in respect of which a notice of 7 days has been given to the other party and the Directorate of Dispute Prevention and Resolution, the government body responsible for resolving such disputes. The Strike must amount to a “peaceful suspension of work” and any act or hostility against persons or property is strictly prohibited. In the case of essential services, Labour Court may give its binding award. Employment of workers is secure during the lawful strike.

Source: §15 of the Constitution of Lesotho 1998; §29, 46B, 225- 227, 228B, 228C, 229 and 230-234 of the Labour Code, 1992