Employees fear for their jobs as employers prefer foreigners
A labour dispute between employees of companies contracted for the construction of the Modular Tailing Treatment Plant (MTTP) at Jwaneng mine is heating up following the dismissal of more than 20 employees who were allegedly replaced by foreigners last week.
This week the matter that has since been reported to the Department of Labour caused anxiety among the town’s civic leaders who demanded that action should be taken to protect the welfare of the employees.
Concerned employees who were surprised to see their colleagues packing after losing their jobs last week told of how their future was uncertain at the mine.
The employees who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation said the leadership at SMEI, the main contractor, preferred corruptible foreigners who are prepared to share their hourly rates with the bosses.
SMEI, the company that has been contracted by Debswana for the project has sub-contracted labour brokers, Thotoetso Electrical &Engineering PTY (LTD) and Chartcose.
Although they have signed contracts with the brokers, the employees who included riggers, boilermakers, fitters and steel errectors say they work under the supervision of SMEI who ironically can terminate their contracts as and when they please.
“The issue started when we demanded our severance benefits recently.
It seems our demands did not go down well with the supervisors and they started firing people.
Before we knew it they had replaced them with foreigners who do not even have work permits,” said one of the employees.
An infuriated Jwaneng Mayor, Amos Jahana said the conduct of the employers was unacceptable and compared it to slavery.
“This is totally unacceptable. SMEI should hire people directly instead of involving brokers.
There are corrupt practices when it comes to recruitment from the way I see it.
They prefer foreigners because they are desperate and they do not have a problem sharing part of their rates with the employer.
Batswana refuse to do that and when they get to work the following day they are told that their contracts have been terminated or they can’t be renewed.
If that is not modern day slavery then I don’t know what is,” Jahana said.
Jahana said his office had taken the matter up the Ministry of Labour and Home affairs.
On Monday the foreign employees mostly from Zimbabwe were said to have been roaming in the township as labour officials were expected to visit the mine.
At the time of going to press the department of labour and immigration, together with other law enforcement agencies were due to investigate the labour situation.
Neo Stephen, the Human Resources Manager refused to field any questions from The Voice as he referred all enquiries to the site manager whose phone could not be reached.