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Unions in Madagascar protest against forced leave

25 May, 2020When seven workers tested positive to the coronavirus at Tamatave Mine, owned by Ambatovy, and managed by Canadian company, Sherritt, 60 per cent of the workforce of mainly Malagasy workers were put on forced leave for six months on reduced pay.

According to a letter sent to workers by the Ambatovy management, the technical unemployment will start in May and end in October. During this period workers will be paid 100 per cent in June, 75 per cent in July, and 50 per cent for the remaining months.
The company has various operations, including a mine, pipeline, production, tailings, and port. At the Ambatovy factory site in Toamasina, the company employs 3000 workers of whom 60 per cent are on forced leave for six months while 1200 workers at Moramanga mining site are in the same situation.
Subcontractors to Ambatovy have also put workers on forced leave. For example, KPS put 250 workers on leave for six months while Madacan’s 150 workers for three months.
IndustriALL Global Union affiliates Syndicalisme et Vie des Societies (SVS), Sendika Kristanina Malagasy (SEKRIMA) and Fédération des Syndicats Autonomes des Travailleurs de l’Industrie (FESATI), that organize workers at the mines, are challenging the technical unemployment as they were never consulted.
The country’s labour code says before a company implements technical unemployment, there must be consultation with unions. The code defines technical unemployment, allowed for up to six months, as interruption to work caused by accidents, power interruptions, disasters, shortages of raw materials, tools, and transport problems.
Unions doubt if the Covid-19 pandemic fits into these categories and say it is unlawful for companies to implement technical unemployment without consulting unions. Workers also have the right to decide when to take leave and not be forced by the employer.
Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL mining director says:

“We urge Ambatovy to avoid unfair labour practices and to adopt Covid-19 protocols that protect workers’ rights including to health and safety, job security and income protection, as is becoming the norm globally. This should be done in consultation with trade unions.”

The unions are also campaigning against the stigma that the workers who test positive to COVID-19 are facing in the communities where they live.
Ambatovy is a nickel and cobalt mining enterprise in Madagascar which is a partnership of three companies; Sherritt International Corporation from Canada, Sumitomo Corporation from Japan, and Korea Resources Corporation from Korea.