Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) has been inundated with reports from its members about the victimization of its branch leadership structures, by Bela Bela Quarries management. Bela Bela management’s conduct is in breach of the recognition agreement concluded between the parties and seriously undermines existing industrial relations.
BMWU signed its labour agreement with Bela Bela in 2018, the terms of which espoused key industrial relation principles prescribed under several employment legislation. Central to this agreement, is the recognition of the Union and its members and also the role it plays in negotiating employees conditions of service. Bela Bela management has consistently repudiated this agreement and failed to fulfill its obligations, showing a blatant disregard for smooth industrial relations by way of launching a series of disciplinary charges targeting employees who are in the Union branch officials, because of the perceived rapport they have amongst the workers.
BMWU has been in wage negotiations with Bela Bela since 2019. Negotiations have stalled as management refuses Union representatives time off to participate in that undertaking. Several attempts to engage with South African based shareholders of Bela Bela Quarries including its citizen (Batswana) shareholders have proven futile. The relationship between BMWU and Bela Bela Quarries is at death’s door, and both parties should make all attempts to put it on life support. Failing which, BMWU will be left with no choice but to institute an industrial action.
The Bela Bela Quarries issue, is a but a drop in the ocean of challenges BWMU faces on a daily basis in promoting decent work in the mining industry. These challenges are a result of the regulatory gaps within our minerals policy and the fragmentation of institutions charged with the responsibility of monitoring, inspecting and supervising conduct of mining companies in our country’s minerals development landscape and their general treatment of workers. In the most recent revised Draft Minerals Policy and Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill slated to be proposed by the Minister of Minerals Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security at the next Parliamentary Session, emphasis in the policy seems to be placed on the establishment of a “competitive environment for investors” and maximizing economic outcomes from mineral development. The policy seeks to re-arrange the fiscal regime to be more favorable to investors at the expense of workers. No-where does the policy mention workers’ participation in the downstream or upstream mineral development and investment decision making processes. Beneficiation and real economic participation should start right at the concession agreement stages under Section 50 of the Mines and Minerals Act. This is the only guarantee against workers exploitation and better working conditions for mineworkers. The new policy, should take cognizance of our most recent history, the legacy of which still visible from the towering structures of the Selibe-Phikwe mine.
We wish to make all our partners aware that this is the dawn of a new era for Botswana Mine Workers Union and we remain committed to be being the vanguard of workers’ struggles in the mining sector.
We therefore call on:
1. Bela Bela Quarries to stop victimizing and intimidating BWMU Branch committee members.
2. The Botswana Chamber of Mines (BCM) and Business Botswana to intervene and call Bela Bela to order.
3. The Government of Botswana through the Department of Mines and the Commissioner of Labour to ensure Bela Bela’s compliance with industry best practices.
4. The establishment of a Joint Industrial Council under section 36 of the Trade Disputes Act as the apex appellate structure for both industry and workers.
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