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Shine bright like a diamond: unions will fight to improve working conditions

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7 November, 2019Trade unions representing diamond workers met in New Delhi, India on 6 and 7 November. They focused on developing a plan to improve conditions in the diamond supply chain, which is mostly located in Asia and Africa.

The 15 trade unionists of the global diamond network - from Belgium, Botswana, Congo (DRC), India, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe - spoke about the challenges faced by workers in the sector: health and safety issues such as eye problems, the presence of home-based workers in cutting and polishing, and the need for artisanal mining to be recognized as a legitimate economic activity. Some workers do not even receive a minimum wage, even though they produce a very expensive product.

Precarious working conditions are common in diamond supply chains. The wages of workers polishing diamonds depend on the quality of the stone supplied to them. Since this is decided by management, wages vary, sometimes every month. In many countries, diamond polishing workers are not able to access social security. The unions from India – INMF Mines and SEWA – pledged to work together to improve conditions in diamond cutting and polishing workplaces to address this situation.

The unions will continue to engage with the Kimberley Process and other international multi-stakeholder initiatives. They aim to ensure that ethical standards for diamonds - which have until now been restricted to ‘conflict’ diamonds - will also include the working conditions of all workers in diamond mining and processing.

The global diamond unions will provide support to each other by strengthening the network. The experience of the network, working with the Sub-Saharan Africa regional office to assist the organizing efforts of the Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho, was seen as a template that should be replicated. Because the situation in the DRC and Zimbabwe needs urgent attention, the network resolved to extend solidarity to unions in those countries over the coming year.

Beverly Murangi, co-chair of the sector said,

“The value of a diamond should be reflected in the lives of the workers who work to produce it. The willingness of all the unions here to fight for diamond workers gives us hope that we can do it together.”