11 June, 2020Thousands of mine workers quarantined at Tenke Fungurume copper and cobalt mine in Democratic Republic of the Congo for two-months as part of prevention strategies for Covid-19, held a successful strike on 23 May for payment of a special allowance.
The strike led to negotiations with the mine management that then led to the payment of a special allowance of US$600 to the 6,000 mineworkers confined to the mine site during the quarantine. The company has so far paid US$500 to each of the workers. The allowance workers also want to be paid for the overtime that they worked during this period.
Work continued at the mine during the quarantine because mining is defined as an essential service under Congolese law.
IndustriALL Global Union affiliates Secrétariat des Syndicats de IndustriALL (CSC) and Travailleurs Unis des Mines, Métallurgies, Energie, Chimie et Industries Connexes (TUMEC) are some of the unions that organize the over 15,000 workers employed at the mine.
Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director for mining says:
“We support unions for continuing to fight for better working conditions and benefits at TFM. Even in the midst of Covid-19 mineworkers are pushing back and fighting mine bosses’ attempts to undermine their rights and benefits.
"Essential service status is not a code for exploitation under the guise of Covid-19. Mining companies should make efforts to cushion mineworkers’ benefits.”
China Molybdenum, is listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, owns 80 per cent of the Tenke Fungurume Mining (TFM) shares, with state-owned Gecamines having the remainder. The TFM site holds one the largest cobalt reserves in the world.
IndustriALL affiliates are working with other unions to organize more workers at the mine. One of the organizing strategies that the unions are using is to campaign for job security, and better working conditions. About 12,000 workers at the mine are precarious workers with short contracts and the unions want them to be given permanent employment.
The unions are demanding transport allowances to enable the mineworkers to regularly visit their families who live far away from the mine. The unions also want the company to pay medical benefits to workers and their families.
With the first Covid-19 cases reported in March, the DRC has over 4,000 reported cases, with 96 deaths.