FRANCISTOWN: Employees of BCL and Tati Nickel Mining Company (TNMC) mines will at the end of October get their last salaries, liquidator Nigel Dixon-Warren delivered the bad news last Friday.
Reportedly briefing emotional TNMC employees at the Phoenix mine, the liquidator indicated that, “given the financial state of the BCL Group, it was not going to be possible for the mines to pay their stranded miners beyond the October salaries.”
Mmegi is informed that the liquidator and his team, that included Sebetela Sebetela from the Minerals Development Corporation Botswana (MDCB) and others from the BCL Group board, were reportedly reluctant to address the entire TNMC employees fearing for their security.
Briefing a few employees of the senior grades at the mine premises, he (liquidator) reportedly said, “October 31 will mark the end of your contracts and beyond that there will be no salaries”.
This is despite the government ministers’ pronouncement to the nation recently through the state media that the process of liquidation could take 18 months, assuring the nation that there will be no job losses.
Later Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi and mineral minister Sadique Kebonang said the government might not be able to sustain the workers’ pay for 18 months.
But then the government had said that miners would be paid their salaries for four months whilst the liquidator makes his determination within those months might just be mere political expediency.
Jack Tlhagale, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) president said in an interview that Kebonang, the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security said it all recently when addressing miners that the workers are guaranteed only their October salaries.
“When the workers asked about what will happen to them after the October month, Kebonang informed them that at least they were guaranteed their October salaries,” he said.
Tlhagale criticised the government
“Look, they were trying to minimise the adverse impact of the mine closure by misinforming the nation. That was very bad,” he noted.
The BMWU president felt that government by going the liquidation way, is merely trying to cut costs.
He however, indicated that what workers would salvage in the immediate period is certainly their salaries, accumulated leave days and pro-rated gratuities.
“The mine employees have now been informed about what to expect at the end of the month. It should not be a surprise no matter how hurting it could be,” he said.
Tlhagale yesterday could not say whether the retrenchment agreement that both BCL and TNMC have with the BMWU would apply as miners exit work.
“The workers will put up their claims with the liquidator. He (liquidator) might say the claim does not apply ,but what we know is that the retrenchment agreement is legally binding,” he said indicating that the union was battling hard to ensure the claims come to pass.
Tlhagale is frustrated by the reality that they do not have contact with the liquidator and employer for now.
What is most frustrating according to Tlhagale is that workers are set to leave the mine’s premises for their homes, possibly without the usual repatriation provision from the mine as nothing has been said about it.
“To the miners, it does not make economic sense for them to continue living in the mine’s houses when they have nothing to eat,” he said emphasising that what has been agreed has to be adhered to.