Trying times at BMWU

BMWU president Joseph Tsimako speaking at press conference. PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
BMWU president Joseph Tsimako speaking at press conference. PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

Since the advent of the abrupt closure of the BCL Group at both Selebi-Phikwe and Tati Nickel mines, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) has suffered substantially in its monthly collections of the workers’ subscriptions.

BMWU president, Joseph Tsimako told a press conference at the President Hotel today that the trade union has witnessed its fortunes dwindling to worrying levels. A drop in the union’s membership meant a drop in the finances of the union.

Tsimako said before the BCL Group's mine closure the BMWU membership was estimated at 13,000. In some instances after the closure of the BCL Group and Mowana Copper Mine (Dukwi mine), they found their membership hovering at around 8,000 with an all-time low of about 6,000 members.

Equally, besides the financial commitments of the trade union, in monetary terms, subscription fees at some stage had dropped from a stable P10 million annually to a shaky P6 million annually as numbers continued to drop.

BMWU president was, however, positive that as mines continue to open up, they expect to recover from the drop that they experienced since 2016.

The BMWU is also concerned about the health and safety issues at the Mupane Gold Mine, which was recently bought up by the new Hawks Mining Company owner. They were also concerned about the covert nature of the sale transaction.

According to Tsimako, Mupane has not been handling issues of health and safety well with a contention that some workers for some time have been exposed to the danger of inhaling the harmful silica dust.

“We have reported this matter to the Department of Mines inspectorate team and there seems to be no solution at all. At some stage we even considered suing the mine for failing to take care of the miners,” said Tsimako, who elaborated that the effects of silica dust might not manifest in the now but at a later stage in the lives of the miners.

This has also given the union the leeway to contest the Mupane sale transaction, which they feel despite the Consumer and Competition Authority (CCA) okaying it, they were not satisfied with certain issues around the sale.

Their main contention is that the sale transaction was not in the public's interest. They strongly feel that the transaction does not comply with the main regulatory regimes that should ordinarily qualify it. It is BMWU’s concern that the approval was erroneous and flawed.

They added that the CCA seems to be supporting public interest intervention for economic benefits.

Tsimako also expressed worry about the safety record of Mupane indicating that just recently a miner died in the line of duty, which has also raised concerns about the safety standards.

BMWU has of late been grappling with issues of the union’s recognition by some companies giving an example of Makoro Bricks in Palapye and De Wet based in Rasesa. The trade union has promised to fight all its challenges to the bitter end.

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