Workers must be Protected

Somewhere in this edition, we carry a story about the looming shut down of Boseto copper mine in Toteng in the next two months. At least 450 employees will be affected, and the ripple effect means the number is higher because these individuals have dependents, have loans and mortgages to service.

This mine, owned by Discovery Metals Limited, started operating just over two years ago and had brought hope to the Ngamiland District. The district is among the impoverished areas and has suffered from prolonged droughts and Foot and Mouth Disease that killed cattle. Developments are very limited in this area and it is survival of the fittest for the inhabitants.

The explanation given by Discovery Metals is that copper prices have fallen badly, labour costs are high, and this is affecting their business.

Also in the news is the shutting down of Serowe Teemane Manufacturing Company, which has operated in the country for approximately 20 years. The company cited low diamond prices as their main reason for shutting down leaving 300 people with no jobs. Obviously, there are employees who worked for the company since its doors opened two decades ago, and they witnessed its growth to this day.

A major issue here is the welfare of employees when unfortunate situations like these occur. The employment laws in Botswana are not very firm on the welfare of employees since they only prescribe a one month salary payment for those affected by retrenchments, or shutting down of companies.

It is time for our legislators to correct this anomaly and put measures in place to protect the workers who are the engines in wealth creation in the country. It is a source of concern when a company shuts down after only two years of operation. What about the workers who left their secure jobs under false impressions that their new employer was solid?

Government should put in place laws that compel employers to insure their employees against job losses or shutdowns so that when circumstances such as these arise, the effects could be cushioned.

When 400 people lose jobs, it is not only them and their dependents who are affected. There are many implications because loans will not be repaid, skills are either left unutilised or exported to other countries and that reflects badly on the competitiveness of our country.

We urge the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs to review employment laws as a matter of urgency to curb possible exploitation of workers. Companies should have a fund from which they can compensate their employees when they shutdown. The compensation should be able to sustain the affected person for at least one year.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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