The Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) and Debswana Diamond Mining Company are at logger-heads over some aspects of the plans which are expected to see the company through the difficult economic crisis.
The plan, which involves a retainer and special retirement packages that were announced earlier in the year, is a stumbling block towards reaching an amicable solution to the problem.
“With regard to special retirement and leaveÔÇöwhere people would be put on a retainerÔÇöwe do have a problem in the way they have been packaged,” the Secretary General of the BMWU said in an interview.
“Batswana are prone to loans and as a worker your general life is dependent on your salary. You can not just slash someone’s salary like that,” he said, ahead of the management and union talks, which are going to take place on April 20, but there is little hope that the management will entertain that argument.
He said that the union rejects 30 percent of the salary as too little saying that most of the employees have got commitments entered into as part of running their own lives.
However, the management is said to be in no mood to negotiate the case any further after it has made concessions on the issue of re-deployment and considerable head way on the plight of affected workers from Damtshaa, Orapa Plant Number 2, and the reduction of mining activities at all its operations across the country.
This comes right on the heels of a statement released earlier in the week by the two parties, stating that “Debswana and Botswana Mine Workers’ Union have reached agreement on measures to mitigate the impact of the global economic crisis, employees affected by the suspension of operations at Damtshaa Mine, Orapa No 2 Plant and the reduction of mining activities at Jwaneng and Orapa and Letlhakane mines”.
“The agreement was reached at a meeting in Orapa on 2 April 2009, which was a culmination of extensive consultations and negotiations between the two parties. Debswana and the Union share an common commitment to take all practical and reasonable steps to avoid retrenching the 570 employees, who are affected by the decision taken to ensure that the company survives the economic meltdown and is ready for the upturn,” the statement said.
Information reaching the Sunday Standard is that the two parties agreed on minimising the impact of the retrenchment on engineering staff who will now be re-deployed to some junior position but they will be allowed to travel with their current salaries and benefits.
Engineers willing for voluntary separation will be allowed to do so but it will have to be done in a manner that will see that the company does not face shortage of skilled manpower in the future.
Writing in the Financial Times of the United Kingdom, De Beers insisted that it was going to weather the storm of the global economic crisis as a result of the measure they had taken against the crisis.
The measures that include cutting down on operations are expected to save the company some US $ 1.5 billion that will ensure that the company remains profitable even under trying times.
De Beers is owned by Anglo America, Botswana government and the Oppenhemer family and its most profitable mines are in Botswana under the Debswana flagship.