Africa-Press – Botswana. Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) have expressed disappointment over unfulfilled promises by government, regarding the abrupt closure of BCL mine in 2016 and the subsequent dismissal of employees.
Addressing the media on Tuesday, BMWU president Joseph Tsimako blasted President Mokgweetsi Masisi for ignoring them after he previously engaged them in Selebi Phikwe in relation to unpaid packages to former BCL employees.
Close to 5 0000 miners lost their jobs when government decided to shutdown BCL mine in 2016. According to Tsimako, Masisi has deliberately neglected the union on affairs related to BCL. He said not all former BCL employees received their retrenchment packages after they were laid off.
“We have written to the president in our attempts to make follow up on commitments that he made to the union concerning the government paying retrenchments packages to former BCL. He met with us in Phikwe and he assured us that government will look at paying the packages. But today he neglected us as we have received negative response from his office,” said Tsimako.
Tsimako said they will continue to fight until the government respond to their demands as a union. He added that the union is also frustrated by the Department of Mines over its reluctance to react promptly to the concerns raised by the BMWU around safety especially at Mupane mine.
“The safety of workers is highly compromised at Mupane mine. Just last week one employee passed away while on duty. We have pleaded with Department of Mines to undertake safety inspection but to no avail. We urge authorities to act when we engage them,” added Tsimako.
Mines Health Act
Meanwhile, BMWU Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri said there is need for Botswana to introduce the Act which focuses on the safety and health to repeal the existing act that focus on safety alone.
Phiri has indicated that ethics are compromised by doctors in mining influenced by the corporates.
“Some of the employees are forced to work when there are not in good condition. The health aspect of the employees is taken for granted by some of the mining companies who bribes the medical doctors to produce report that indicate that employee are fit to work while not,” he said.
According to Letsholo, the union have asked the Ministry of Minerals to formulate a new act in the form of health and safety that will allow for the establishment of compensation fund under which the mining companies will contribute certain profit to pay for diseases arising from occupational harm.
In addition, Phiri said the current existing legislation of Mines, Quarries, Works and Machinery (Amendment Act) of 1995 is ancient therefore a new sound legislation should be formulated.
He also said the labour inspection at the mines is done through Factories Act therefore it limit the inspectors in what to inspect because it doesn’t permit them to inspect health and safety.
BMWU president Tsimako has said although the Citizen Economic Empowerment Programme (CEEP) adopted by Debswana is aimed at localizing mining projects it also have disadvantages.
He noted that Debswana will on June this year terminate contracts of Komatsu, Kanu and Barloworld.
“The termination of contracts for this companies which employ a significant large number of people will result in massive job losses due to the retrenchments. Debswana is terminating the contracts so to localize the mining projects due to CEEP. Its welcome development but on the other hand we foresee a situation of BCL when it was closed leading to job losses,” said Tsimako.
He said they anticipate the companies that will be contracted by Debswana to employ those who will be retrenched by Komatsu, Kanu and Barloworld respectively so as to save the jobs.
Meanwhile, Tsimako said there are in talks with PNR, a Canadian mining giant to employ the former BCL employees after it acquired BCL mine, a development which he said will save union too.
According to Tsimako, the closure of BCL mine affected many households and the union as well.
“BMWU had 14 000 members at a time when BCL was operational and after the mine was closed, our members dropped to around 10 000 and now we are at 6 000. This has affected our revenues as in the past we made P10 million per year but now we at P6 million,” he added.