- Union says mine workers are victimised for unionising
- Speaks of total disregard of health and welfare of workers
- Accuses some companies of keeping numbers below the threshold
- Says foreign companies are especially notorious for violating labour laws
The Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) has expressed its displeasure with treatment of mine workers in Botswana that includes employees losing their jobs for joining trade unions, which is contrary to the Trade Union Act and the Constitution of Botswana.
Speaking at a press conference in Gaborone last week, the president of BMWU, Joseph Tsimako, spoke of ruthless employers in the mining sector who will stop at nothing to trample upon the rights of mine workers.
This includes disregard of the health and welfare of miners even in cases of serious illnesses like silicosis, the lung disease caused by exposure to silica usually in mines. Prompted by this concern, Tsimako said his union has met with management of Mupane Gold Mine about the safety of its workers after a 50-year old employee died in a freak accident there. “We have been engaging the management (of Mupane) and the Ministry of Minerals and Energy over the issue,” he disclosed before condemning the incident.
But a more serious concern at BMWU is routine victimisation of mine workers, mainly at companies led by foreigners, for unionising that comes in the form of unfair dismissal and other means. Tsimako said this happens in disregard of the law that compels employers to recognise a trade union after reaching a threshold of one third of the required number.
Companies like Makoro Bricks and De Wet Drilling came in for special mention as notorious violators of labour laws. In seeking to resolve the standoff between BMWU and these companies, especially Makoro Bricks that will not even recognise the union, BMWU has even had to engage the District Labour Offices in Palapye and Mochudi. “Since 2011 to-date, we have been battling with Makoro to recognise us,’’ Tsimako said. “ It’s been more than 10 years now.”
He accused Makoro Bricks of engaging in a rigmarole in which the company retrenches workers every time it reaches the statutory threshold to unionise. “Then they say they have failed to meet the threshold,” he said. “In 2020, we took Makoro Bricks to court but the issue has been going back and forth. We want the public to know about this unfair treatment of employees that sometimes even extends to union leaders being victimised.”
In a related matter, the Executive Secretary of BMWU, Kitso Phiri, told journalists that they were tasked with transformation of the union after it was affected by the closure of the BCL Mine in Selibe-Phikwe in 2016 since assuming office in 2019. He said the transformation agenda is tied to capacity building and sustainability of the mining workforce in Botswana.