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Not so sparkly conditions in Botswana diamond polishing

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28 February, 2014IndustriALL affiliates in Botswana’s diamond polishing sector report dangerous working conditions and poor wages for the predominantly female workforce.

At a training seminar for shop stewards conducted last month by IndustriALL, in collaboration with Botswana Diamond Workers Union and Botswana Power Corporation Workers Union, participants revealed that companies in the diamond polishing industry are routinely flouting labour laws.

According to the shop stewards, workers are summarily dismissed for minor offences and untested allegations. Furthermore, safety at the workplace is often compromised as workers have to work behind locked doors for long periods. Participants also complained of discriminatory practices where the diamond companies provide more benefits and better treatment for expatriates than locals.

IndustriALL’s director of mining, Glen Mpufane said:

The experiences of our affiliate members in Botswana highlight the plight of thousands of vulnerable diamond workers across the globe who are subjected to dangerous working conditions, low pay and discrimination by employers. IndustriALL is working hard to support mining trade union affiliates across Africa and the world to increase their capacity to protect workers.

Diamonds are the lifeblood of the Botswana economy. They account for one third of the country's total gross domestic product as well as 76 percent of its export revenue and 45% of government revenue. The country is the highest producer of diamonds by value in the world.

And yet, workers in the diamond industry do not share in this wealth, with average salaries for people employed in the diamond polishing industry as low as US$225 per month.

A significant amount of diamond mining in Botswana is done through a partnership between Botswana government and De Beers Mining Company, the merger of which is a company called Debswana Diamond Company. Through a beneficiation policy, some 21 companies have been established and approximately 3200 people are employed in the diamond polishing industry in the country. 

Participants at the workshop on the 7 and 8 February 2014 resolved to strengthen representation in the sector through recruitment and to organize workers to better address their problems and fight for fairer wages.