Basil Read vows to address workers’ grievances

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Obrein Simasiku

Omuthiya-Basil Read Mining Namibia says it has noted “with grave concern” and “taken seriously” the allegations by Tschudi copper mine workers that there is unfair treatment of black employees and unequal treatment between management and employees at the company.

“Basil Read’s Code of Ethics and Business Conduct requires that all employees are treated equally and fairly. Any allegations to the contrary are taken seriously and will be thoroughly investigated,” the mining company said in a statement issued by its South African-based public relations company Flow Communications.

Employees of Basil Read Mining at the Weatherly International Tschudi copper mine, near Tsumeb, last week staged a peaceful demonstration and petitioned the management over unfair working conditions as well as low wages. The demonstration was held at the mine situated some 20 kilometres outside Tsumeb, in Oshikoto Region. Hundreds of employees at the mine gathered to denounce what they say are forms of discrimination and threats by the management. The workers also demanded payment of overtime and lunch hours, which is due since 2014.

“We are the ones that are running the production but we are treated as slaves in our own country. We are forced to work in the sun, rain, dusty conditions while people sitting in air-conditioned offices are treated special and given quality personal protective equipment,” said Tracey Naris, who read the petition on behalf of the employees.
Naris further stressed that employees are working under unsafe conditions such as without communicating radios. “Drilling officers are forced to work without radio, also they are working on misfiring block. We can clearly see that we are working under dangerous conditions, our lives are at stake,” fumed Naris.

The workers demonstrated under the auspices of the Mine Workers Union of Namibia (MUN) and gave the management 10 days to respond. The petition was received by the management who said they would forward it to the right authorities.

The mine said the allegations that management has refused to engage in wage negotiations since 2014 are based on the fact that the 2017-2018 wage negotiations with employees have deadlocked and the matter has been referred to the Labour Department for conciliation.

“We do not intend negotiating with our employees through the media, but we are confident that our salaries are way above the industry benchmark and we have evidence to this effect that we will provide to the Department of Labour,” the company said.

“We are also confident that the Department of Labour will find in our favour with respect to the issue of overtime because all our remuneration practices are in line with Namibian laws,” maintained the company.

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