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Granite miners endure harsh conditions

2020-03-11  Eveline de Klerk

Granite miners endure harsh conditions
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SWAKOPMUND – Namibians working at Dreamland Investments and its sister companies, Ewe Granite Manufacturing and Ekungungu Trading are underpaid and work under deplorable conditions, exposing them to health and safety risks.

The three Chinese-owned granite companies employ 29 people that work about 70 kilometres from Omatjete in the Erongo region.

When officials from the Mine Workers Union of Namibia (MUN), visited these mines last Friday they were stunned by the living conditions that the workers are subjected to while in contrast their Chinese counterparts live in relative luxury.

MUN Western Region organiser Fillipus George Ampweya on Monday said it is disheartening to see how Namibians are being treated by these companies despite the fact they make millions of dollars in revenue.
 “Namibians are squashed into makeshift types of rooms where they stay five in a room and use it for cooking.  Their ablution facilities are worse. Chinese employees on the other hand live in 15 decent living quarters, have a cook and a cleaner,” he explained.

He said they have given the mine’s management a week to address the living and working conditions and MUN also requested the mine owners to repatriate all undocumented Chinese nationals and employ Namibians in their place.

“We also demanded that the workers undergo biannual medical check-ups due to their harsh working and living conditions,” Ampweya said.

They also want employees to be granted their statutory leave days and be paid overtime as per the Labour Act. They furthermore want Namibians to be employed as supervisors and trained in the usage of heavy machinery but initially as understudies to Chinese workers.

Ampweya said they want better housing and ablution facilities as well as that a proper cooking and recreational area be constructed for the Namibian workers.
Apart from that, he says, they want to be able to negotiate better employment conditions and salaries for the Namibians as they currently receive N$300 as a food allowance and have a basic salary of N$3 000.  Namibians transporting the stones to Walvis Bay are paid N$0.30 cent per km, which MUN wants to be increased to N$3 per km.

MUN as mandated by its members reserves the right to take unspecified but necessary measures to compel the companies to address the issues raised. They also called on the government and the labour inspectors in Erongo, and the Ministry of Mines and Energy to stop what they term ‘flirtatious tendencies with the companies and invoke the rule of law”.

Ampweya urged local communities and farmers who own the farms where the granite is mined to rather obtain mining rights instead of leasing their farms to the Chinese who exploit Namibians.

He added that the Chinese-owned companies have Namibian managers and labour consultants who are appointed as middlemen solely for the purposes of scouting for Namibian nationals for employment and to then exploit them and the regulatory guidelines that govern industrial relations. 

‘’We have written several letters to the employer as well as relevant government offices disapproving the status quo at these mines, specifically health and safety, affirmative action and influx of Chinese nationals without proper documentation, but evidently somewhere, somehow the systems have continuously failed us,” Ampweya said.

He added that protection, living conditions and living salaries are legal obligations employers have towards their employees.
“We as a union cannot constantly remind companies to look after their workforce,” he said.
Dreamland Investments was contacted for comment and indicated that it would respond to New Era via email

2020-03-11  Eveline de Klerk

Tags: Erongo
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