Labourers at Morupule B down tools over PPE

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PALAPYE: Employees of NEPEC 11, a sub-contractor under China National Electronic Equipment Corporation (CNEEC), have vowed not to return to work until their grievances are addressed.

CNEEC is a company engaged by the Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) at the Morupule B Power Plant.

Over 97 employees are protesting against lack of proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), low salaries, poor working conditions and being made to work without contracts, among others.

“We work in a high risk area where there is high voltage electricity. We work with fibreglass, coal dust, limestone, silica dust, smelly paints and all sorts of chemicals, and at heights yet we are not provided with PPE nor risk allowance or even medical check-ups. Since Friday last week, we had opted not to work until we are provided with protective clothing,” said one employee who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The employees said they receive PPE of lower quality occasionally especially when BPC Safety Health Management (SHE) officers complain or when one employee is injured.  The employees alleged that ever since they were hired, medical tests have never been conducted on them even when they began working at the company.

The aggrieved employees, who converged at the parking lot outside Morupule B power plant yesterday, also said they have told SHE officers at BPC and their project manager about their grievances.

They said their bosses tried to force them to get back to work on Saturday and they refused.

The employees said they are expected to sign work contracts on a monthly basis.

“We have a problem with this contract, we sign monthly because they compromise our job security.  We cannot raise complaints even when we are not happy because our management always threatens us. Some of our colleagues have even lost their jobs for raising complaints. “As we speak today, we do not have leave days or offs. We are forced to work from the beginning of the month to the end without rest which is unhealthy. We are provided with transport only during the day, but some of the shifts end at 2am. Those who knock off at that time are normally told to walk home or sleep in the plant which is not allowed by BPC,” they said. Though they are not reporting to work, the employees told Mmegi that they are not on strike, but want the employer to address their concerns peacefully. Supervisor at NEPE 11, Si Chai who is Chinese, dismissed the accusations levelled against his company.

He said they provided the employees with PPE in January 2015 and some employees newly employed were supplied in September.

“We provide the employees with PPE, it’s just that sometimes they sell them or they damage them quickly. We advised them to go back to work since we have negotiated with BPC that we shall provide them with PPE in January next year, but they don’t want to listen,” said  Si . Though he said the company had not yet made a decision on whether they will fire the employees, he said they will not pay the workers for the days they did not work.  “In the meantime, we have replaced the absconding employees with the Chinese so that the production cannot stop,” stated  Si.

When quizzed for comment, BPC SHE officer, Boikanyo Boitshepho, referred the publication to his superiors who were said to be in meetings.

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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