THE Construction and Mine Workers Associations Union (CAMAU) has petitioned the parliamentary portfolio committee responsible for natural resources to intervene on their behalf against allegedly unfair labour practices by some of the leading diamond mining companies.
A CAMAU representative, Nkuebe Lehloenya, recently told the legislators that locals were subjected to discrimination when it came to promotions to senior management positions at the Letšeng, Kao and Liqhobong mines.
He said the mines preferred hiring foreign expertise even where there were suitably qualified locals. He further alleged that they were not paid allowances for overtime despite working for as long as 12 hours per day which was more than the eight hours stipulated in their contracts.
“Our management is so discriminatory because they never appoint Basotho people in higher positions although they have the required qualifications,” Mr Lehloenya said.
“What is more frustrating is that they even appoint other foreigners to lower positions that could be given to some of the community members who work in the mine or even some of us.”
“We also do not know how much of what we receive is the salary and how much is the overtime because it is not clearly broken down on our pay slips. We want to know how much our basic salaries before overtime but they (the employers) have been reluctant to do implement our request.”
Another worker representative, Pheello Lemeke, accused the mining companies of prohibiting workers’ union officials from entering the mines, saying this made it very difficult for them to register new members and fight for the rights of the “oppressed” workers.
“It is not healthy for us to be working in such an environment especially as we spend most of our time there. Working in an unfriendly environment hampers production and increases depression and we cannot continue to work like that. We are tired and we need you to intervene,” Mr Lemeke implored the legislators.
For his part, the chairperson of the Natural Resources Committee, Molefe Mpalipali, said they would engage the responsible ministries to ensure that the workers and unions’ grievances are addressed.
“We have heard all your concerns,” Mr Mpalipali said, adding, “This is not the first time we have heard such sad news about the treatment of miners and this calls for urgent action”.
The government has 30 percent shares in the Letšeng mine and a further 25 percent in the Liqhobong and Kao mines.