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Mine workers petition Debswana

SHARE   |   Thursday, 12 July 2018   |   By Keitebe Kgosikebatho
Mine Workers marching [INSERT] is Tlhagale Mine Workers marching [INSERT] is Tlhagale

 reject three per cent 2018/19 salary increase

Oppose Scannex X-ray Machines; say no diamond theft proof

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fear cancer from ionizing radiation;

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 'Diamonds cannot be produced by exposing mine workers to ionizing radiation on a daily basis'

The Mine Workers Union has given Debswana Diamond Company a month to furnish them with an intervention to a number of their concerns which includes the introduction of Scannex Full Body Search Machines which they totally object to.

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In a petition handed by the union leadership (BMWU) President Jack Tlhagale in Letlhakane and the Union’s National Organising Chairperson Desmond Seomeng in Jwaneng) to Debswana leadership, represented in both instances by its Senior HR Managing Personnel and signed by the Union’s Secretary General Mbiganyi Ramokate on Saturday last week the union outlined about 10 issues which they demanded the Company to addressed as a matter of urgency and concern.

With regard to Scannex Full Body Search X-Ray Machines, the union appealed to the company to set aside the decision to implement the machine in line with their (union)‘s objection and the company’s values of “show we care” and “Putting Safety First”. “It is only this way that Zero Harm can be achieved. Diamonds cannot be produced by exposing mine workers to ionizing radiation on a daily basis in the same way the apartheid government did in the Republic of South Africa. In real terms, the Scannex scam turns the Botswana diamonds into Blood Diamonds,” wrote Ramokate.

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Among the many concerns raised by the union in the petition about Scannex Full Body search X-Ray Machines include the fact that Scannex use ionizing radiation, which can kill or deform human cells to form cancer. “Our difficulty is that  all objections  from employees against installation of these machines in the mines have been totally ignored…..Yet it is  the mine workers  who will be subjected  to ionizing  radiation  emitted by Scannex on a daily basis   for as many years as they would stay with Debswana,” Ramokate noted.

The petition further outlined that additional fundamental concerns against Scannex include: the fact that Scannex x-rays which emit ionizing radiation is a technology developed and marketed and sold by DebTech a company owned by De Beers and operating as its technical arm. Further that it is De Beers that is using and forcing Debswana to implement Scannex.“DebTech cannot be trusted and there is enough space for collusion because of the business partnership. No other comparable independent company has been considered or given the opportunity,” the miners noted, adding that there was lack of independent expert to give an impartial review or assessment (investigation) of the health risks of the whole-body scanners developed by DebTech.

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Furthermore  saying that Debswana management  and their expert (Geoflux) have failed to provide empirical  evidence  to show that diamonds  are being stolen  in alarming  proportions to justify introduction of ‘this dangerous technology’ other than  extrapolation of information from diamonds theft cases  which took place at Venetia, Namdeb and the DRC.

Another point which was put forward in the petition by the union is that there is evidence to show that ionizing radiation is not safe and that Cancer Experts have repeatedly argued that there is no such thing as safe radiation and that there is no plan or arrangement by the mines for real time detection of pregnancy immediately following conception yet pregnant women should not be exposed to Scannex as the foetas may be damaged.

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“The health risks for elderly, pregnant women and people who have compromised immune systems have not been assed/defined i.e. hypertension, diabetic, heart patients etc. associated with Scannex,” read the petition.

The union also questioned what would happen if there is a slight glitch and the device delivers an intense radiation dose to a single area. Ramokate accused Debswana of playing dirty  by going behind the union’s back  to approach  the courts  to seek a court order  compelling the Director of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to issue authorization  for installation of  Scannex in  the mines as its  clear indication that the company does not care  about its employees  but rather  value diamonds over the health of workers.

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“In all fairness, how can your management bypass us secretly and approach the court while in actual fact they knew that we are an interested party that is affected,” charged Ramokate. Adding that: “Worst of all reliable sources have it that the Director of DEA has already secretly approved authorization a day before the court hearing. His motive to bypass an important step i.e. failing to subject Environmental Impact Assessment to public hearings or complete procedure in accordance with the law amounts to collusion.

Meanwhile besides the Scannex saga, BMWU also made concerns regarding what they term a lop sided 3 % wage increment which they accused the Debswana management of exploitative tactic as they have locked the inflation based 3 % to three years such that even when sale of diamonds improved like now, employees have their hands tied at the back and cannot negotiate a better increase.

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Other concerns include victimization and intimidation of employees which they say is rampant at Orapa Letlhakane and Damtshaa mines in particular, controversial water bills at Jwaneng, factors concerning privatization and outsourcing and Environmental, community, occupational health and safety concerns.

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BMWU President Jack Tlhagale told this publication that they have since received confirmation from The Debswana Managing Director that he has received the petition sometimes this week. “We expect him to address our demands and concerns as outlined in the petition, “said Tlhagale.



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