Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Trade union roots for better conditions in mining firms

The Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (Tucta) has called on the Occupational, Safety and Health Administration (Osha) to appoint an official to deal specifically with issues dealing with mining companies According to Tucta, the appointed person should ensure that mining companies operate in accordance with the labour laws Tucta mentioned the current Osha as a weak body, as it lacked qualified and competent staff to deal with current issues in the labour market. Tucta secretary general Nicholaus Mgaya made the remarks on Monday when he met a Corporate and Environment Unit team from the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC). His remarks came after the LHRC released a report on hazardous working conditions in mining firms such as the Geita Gold Mine (GGM). “Osha does not have capacity to deal with all issues in the workplace in the country. It is ineffective and so something should be done to avert the situation,” said Mgaya. Meanwhile, the Tucta secretary general has urged the government to make sure investors abide by labour laws. He was responding to this reporter who wanted to know whether the trade union was aware of any mining firms claiming that they only run their firms in accordance with their codes of conducts and nothing else. He said the situation might be attributed partly to government’s failure to give foreign investors a specified code of conduct which tallied with the country’s laws. According to Mgaya, 80 per cent of employees in both the private and public sector worked under harsh conditions with the remaining 20 per cent with better working conditions. “There are areas where people work because they have to. They work as if they are slaves,” said Mgaya. Besides the mining companies, he mentioned other areas in which workers worked under harsh conditions as courts of law, schools and hospitals, among others, saying some of the court buildings did not reflect the importance of the judiciary. “There are schools where teachers have no latrines and are forced to go to bushes to answer calls of nature while some government hospitals lack necessary facilities for its staff. We are very aware of it all,” said Mgaya. On May 1, this year, President Jakaya Kikwete vowed that no Tanzanian employee would be a slave in his or her own country. He said he was aware that there were some employers violating labour laws and instructed the Ministry of Labour, Youth Development and Employment to deal with them. “Labour officers should hold accountable those violating workers’ labour rights. We are aware of some labour officers who are siding with greedy employers. As much as we want to attract investors, we should not condone exploitation of our own people because doing so, is a sin,” said Kikwete. A survey conducted by the LHRC indicates that local mining labourers have no one to talk to because officials from the Ministry of Minerals and Energy and Osha embrace investors to the detriment of the local labourers. Worse still, their employers are claimed to bar them from forming trade unions, a tool which could have been helpful in fighting for their rights.

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