Friday, November 4, 2011

Chinese-run companies abuse workers' rights in Zambia

"We are working in very bad conditions, horrible conditions."
[ A worker in one of Zambia's Chinese-run copper mines told Human Rights Watch].

It has been said that China is "taking over" Africa, in terms of business and exploitation of natural resources, including timber, copper, coal, just to name a few. Many Africans, including Zambian government officials, welcome China's increasing presence in Africa on grounds that China's investments have created jobs and other benefits in the region. Many have ignored the fact that "jobs" and "benefits" created by a country that has little regard for human rights and freedoms, come at a high price. Chinese-run businesses and companies routinely abuse workers' rights in Africa, in violation of national and international labor standards. A recent report published by Human Rights Watch on 3 November 2011 reveals that Chinese-run copper mining companies in Zambia violate workers' rights and Zambian national laws and regulations.

According to Human Rights Watch, abuses perpetrated by Chinese-run mining companies in Zambia include:
  • Poor health and safety conditions.
  • "Brutally long Shifts" of "arduous labor."
  • Violation of workers' right to organize
Anyone interested in "human rights" must have heard that rights are commonly muzzled in China. Chinese companies have exported not only their expertise and goods to Africa - they have also exported rights violations.

Daniel Bekele, Africa Director at Human Rights watch points out that "many of the poor health and safety practices we found in Zambia's Chinese-run mines look strikingly similar to abuses we see in China."

Allegations of "brutally long" working hours and "slave wages" paid by Chinese-run corporations are disturbing; but even more disturbing are reports that employers terminate work contracts or threaten to fire workers who stand up for their rights and demand better working conditions. This is "coercion" - intended to intimidate and silence abused workers struggling to make a decent living for themselves and their families.

In October 2010, two managers in Chinese-run Collum coal mine in southern Zambia used shotguns to shoot at unarmed workers who were protesting poor labor conditions. The government of Zambia later dropped all charges against the mine shooting perpetrators.

The government of Zambia has failed to protect Zambian workers from abuse and exploitation.

It is true that China's hugh investment in Zambia has created jobs, but it is also true that many workers employed in Chinese-owned companies have been denied their rights as laid down in national and international law.

By failing to end abuse in Chinese-run mines, the Republic of Zambia, a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO), has picked business over "decent work" and human rights. The new government of President Michael Sata, elected in September 2011, should move quickly to restore the dignity of miners and bring abusive employers to justice.

1 comment:

  1. The mining industry has always been notorious for violating human rights norms. In India too the Human Rights activists are constantly at logger heads with giant Mining companies on similar issues. Thanks for bringing this up on your blog.


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