- Debswana shifts equipment maintenance contracts to local companies
- Affected multinational companies warn mine union of job losses
- Union caught in a quandary
Over the first two quarters of 2022, hundreds of employees in the mining sector will be rendered jobless due to Debswana Diamond Company’s decision to change maintenance strategy at its mines.
This is according to letters from some equipment contractors currently contracted by the diamonding mining giant. While Debswana insists that the contracts naturally elapsed and were not renewed, documents from some of the affected companies indicate that they were terminated. In a letter addressed to Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) dated 11 April 2022, Barloworld Equipment informs the union of its intention to conduct an operational review of the company structures.
Country Manager and Director of Barloworld Equipment, Pierre Hill, states in the letter: “Barloworld Equipment Botswana received correspondence from Debswana on 1st April 2022, which communicated Debswana’s intention to terminate the Site Support Agreement (SSA) that covers maintenance services and repairs for trucks, loaders and other support fleet at Jwaneng Mine, effective 1st July 2022.”
Hill then cites compliance with Section 25 of the Employment Act CAP 47:01. “This letter serves to inform you the union of the company’s intention to undergo an operational review exercise that may lead to restructuring, resulting in some roles becoming redundant and possible job losses,” he wrote to BMWU.
“We therefore wish to inform you that we will be starting consultations with yourselves to discuss the modalities of the company’s intention of the exercise, as well as to make the exercise as less burdensome on the affected employees as possible. The company will be counting on your cooperation and fruitful discussions during this period. You will be notified of the commencement of the process which is likely to be within the next week.”
BMWU is in receipt of a similar letter from Kumatsu Botswana confirming looming job cuts in the mining industry. Dated 7 April 2022, the letter was written by the Managing Director of Kumatsu Botswana, Martin Cowley, to the Secretary General of BMWU, Maenge Maenge.
“This serves as a follow up to the consultation held with Botswana Mine Workers Union on 7th April 2022 concerning the intention to restructure,” Cowley states in the letter. “In accordance with Section 25 of the Employment Act CAP 47:01, we hereby give Botswana Mine Workers Union notice of our intention to restructure the operations Kumatsu Botswana (Propriety) Limited.”
Cowley explains that the restructuring is necessitated by the change to the equipment maintenance model currently employed at Jwaneng, Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa mines where most of their employees are based, warning that will result in termination of some services that were rendered by Kumatsu. “As a result, please note that where unavoidable, the restructuring may result in retrenchments and in such an event due process must be followed,” he wrote.
At Debswana, the mining parastatal takes the position that it will do everything it can to modify the impact of its change of equipment maintenance model. It says it is taking over the responsibility through a hybrid model which entails insourcing in partnership with citizen companies but will continue with the affected suppliers on a different procurement model and different requirements.
Debswana has denied that it is terminating its contracts of Barloworld, Kumatsu and other multinational companies, saying the contracts have naturally elapsed and it sought not to renew them. Other affected companies are Kanu Enterprises and Epiroc.
Regarding anticipated job losses, Debswana says it will ensure that contractor personnel affected by this decision are prioritised for retention in whatever model will be selected for providing maintenance service. However, it concedes that is no guarantee that all affected employees will be absorbed. BMWU is caught in a quandary because it cannot oppose Debswana’s shift to citizen companies but fears that the development will result considerable job losses.