After recruiting and organizing over 500 workers at the Dangote Cement plant in Masaiti on the outskirts of Ndola, Zambian unions are being prevented from meeting with their members and collecting membership fees because of the company’s blatant violation of workers’ rights and union busting practices.
By so doing, the company is denying the unions freedom of association. Even with the involvement of the ministry of labour, through current and previous ministers and labour commissioners, the cement company has not budged. Dangote’s attitude towards unions is aptly captured in the contract with one of its labour brokers, Silondwa Engineering, which says the “contractor shall ensure that its employees are not involved in union activities and strikes that leads to stopping of work.”
At a meeting in Ndola on 5 July, three IndustriALL Global Union affiliates, the Mineworkers Union of Zambia, the National Union of Commercial and Industrial Workers and the National Union of Building, Engineering and General Workers met with representatives from Dangote and presented them with a petition demanding that the company stops violating workers’ rights. They reminded the company that it is in violation of the Constitution of Zambia, the Industrial and Labour Relations Act Chapter 269 and the ILO conventions.
The unions also called for living wages of Zambian Kwacha 4 000 (US$408) as the current wages of K1800 (US$184) for general workers, for instance, were too low. They also wanted health and safety to be improved by providing a clinic on the cement plant.
Also, of concern to unions is that Dangote employs only 15 permanent workers and has outsourced over 1,000 workers to different subcontractors. According to the labour laws, the workers employed through contractors were doing core work that required permanent contracts. Therefore, the company, through the contractors, is promoting precarious work through short term contracts, no benefits including pension and medical insurance, and low wages.
After the meeting the unions drove to the Masaiti plant where they picketed. Workers, who joined the picket, gave testimonies on how bad the wages and working conditions were.
Kenny Mogane, IndustriALL regional officer for Sub Saharan Africa, said:
“As a multinational company, Dangote should respect workers’ rights, pay living wages and ensure the health and safety of the workers. It is unacceptable for the company to openly violate Zambian laws by not signing recognition agreements with the unions.”