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Botswana diamond workers sacked and evicted

International Confederation Of Free Trade Unions

Botswana diamond workers sacked and evicted from homes for striking

Brussels, 31st August 2004 (ICFTU Online): Against the backdrop of mass dismissals and forced eviction, workers at Botswana's Debswana diamond mines today entered the ninth day of their strike to protest against startling wage inequality and flagrant discrimination against trade union members at the mines.

In just 9 days, a staggering 444 workers have been dismissed solely for exercising their right to strike. This contradicts the Botswana government's ratification of International Labour Organisation Conventions 87 and 98 on the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. As the world's largest trade union organisation, the ICFTU strongly protested to the Botswana President Mogae about the unfair dismissals and the government's declaration that the mass strike is 'illegal' The trade union representing workers in the Debswana mines - the Botswana Mining Workers Union (BMWU) - is seeking a court ruling against the government decision to declare the strike illegal and for the immediate reinstatement of all dismissed workers.

The strike could have severe ramifications on the welfare of the unionised workers as well as on the diamond production industry as a whole which forms more than two thirds of the country's exports. Striking workers at the Debswana diamond mines, as members of the BMWU, are calling for higher pay increases and bonuses already offered to salaried workers at the mines. Debswana is the leading diamond producer in the world by value and is co-owned by the multinational De Beers and the Botswana government

The ICFTU has learned that in the last 24 hours, a number of workers dismissed for strike action have been forcibly evicted from their company- owned homes - a process which is still continuing at this moment. Such developments could have serious social consequences on the stability of the region.

Replacement workers without a proper grasp of health and safety in the mines are now being drafted to work alongside miners in Debswana who opted not to strike. They are exposed to exhausting working schedules and severely understaffed. Lapses in health and safety have reportedly led to 2 deaths and a higher rate of accidents in the last few days alone.

According to ICFTU sources, worker resolve has now strengthened to the point that mine workers are now calling for the full reinstatement of all 444 dismissed workers, alongside to pay increases, and refuse to break up the strike until this actually happens. Trade union organisations from across the world have started to make representations to the President of Botswana calling on him to personally intervene and end the conflict that may otherwise adversely affect the image of the country in international circles.

The ICFTU represents 148 million workers through its 234 affiliated national trade union centres in 152 countries and territories. ICFTU is also a member of Global Unions:

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