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600 Burkinabe mineworkers who lost jobs after mine closure demand fair compensation

1 March, 2019600 workers from the former Societes Mines de Belahauro (SMB) are demanding fair compensation as required by the labour laws after the closure of Inata Mine in 2017.

The mine closure put 1,000 workers out of employment, including contract workers.

SMB is a private mining company which was sold to Avocet Mining, listed on the London Stock Exchange. Avocet then sold the company to the Balaji Group. The workers should have been paid compensation when ownership was transferred. They are former SMB and Avocet workers, now employed by the Balaji Group by virtue of their valid contracts.

“Workers efforts to negotiate are falling on deaf ears or met with bad faith from the Balaji Group, while the ministry of mines is notoriously negligent,” said Kiba Aidane and other workers in a statement.

To press for their demands, more than 200 workers picketed in Ouagadougou with placards alleging collusion between the government and the Balaji Group. The workers reject the employer’s proposal to reduce benefits by up to 40 per cent.

After buying Inata gold mine in 2018, the Balaji Group neither resumed production nor paid the workers what is due to them. Although they have been without jobs since the mine closed, the workers are not relenting. Their plight prompted IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, Federation des Industries Diverses (FID), to launch a campaign demanding that the Accra, Ghana based Balaji Group pay the workers.

The workers want a tripartite meeting in which their rights to fair compensation will be respected and to be paid wages backdated to November 2017. They also want pension benefits to be paid to those who were contributing. Retirement benefits should also be paid to those who were within five years of retirement. Medical benefits should be paid.

Charlotte Nguessan, IndustriALL project coordinator says: “The suffering of SMB workers shows the lengths to which some errant mining companies will go to avoid paying compensation. As part of the union building project, we are always alert to deal with these injustices against workers.”

Says Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director for mining:

“Mining companies must respect workers’ rights. When mines are sold, the new employer must assume responsibility. It is unacceptable for multinational companies to close mines and abandon workers — leaving them without jobs, even robbing them of their benefits.”

The Balaji Group has operations in India, Iraq, Kuwait, Malaysia, Philippines, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. In India the group mines silica, garnet, quartz and iron ore.