Swaziland construction workers suffer from lack of health and safety support from their bosses, delays in payment of salaries, low wages below the government gazette rates, and they continue to work in difficult conditions with no freedom, according to Building and Wood Worker’s International (BWI), the global construction union.
The following article published today (31 March 2011) on the BWI website, reports on a trip made by a BWI ‘mission team’ to Swaziland.
Swaziland: ‘We are still using socks instead of gloves’
In a country where human and trade union rights have been wanting, health and safety conditions at workplaces remain worrying in construction sector. The Secretary General of the construction union brother Mtshali Selby sums it all in the following words, “We are still using socks instead of gloves”. In a sector where accidents rates are reportedly higher, is no surprise that lack of trade unions rights has created a gap for employers not to provide personal protective equipments.
“Most of the construction workers are not aware of the OHS [Occupational Health and Safety] Act and the role of OHS safety representatives”, reiterated Sis Zodwa Lukhele, the Education Coordinator of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU). Noting that BWI has been supporting the Swaziland Forestry Union (SAPAWU) discussions emerged on how the trained representatives from SAPAWU can work with the construction union especially in aspects of occupational health and safety.
Among challenges recorded were delays in payment of salaries, lack of labor inspectorate, low wages below the government gazette rates and those unionists continue to work in difficult conditions with no freedom.
The mission team also visited Peak Timber limited, a wood industry, where the team discussed challenges of HIV/AIDs at workplace and learnt importance of workplace campaigns and wellness program on aspects of Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT). The mission also listened to challenges facing the forest and wood sector including retrenchments, outsourcing as well as repositioning of the industry in a competitive sector. It was noted from the discussion with management at Peak Timber that in future forest and wood workers need to be retrained. Future areas for union work include lobbying for retraining and new skills for the workers who are likely to serve new products lines that are emerging in the sector. Role of forest certification in workplace safety audit was also mentioned.
The mission team that visited Swaziland on 9 and 10th March included Yngve Daoson and Dennis Henningsson from LOTCO and Africa and Middle East BWI Education Officer Paul Opanga. The mission team made courtesy visit of Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) and held discussion with Secretary General Mduduzi Comfort Gina of SFTU on the trade union situation in Swaziland.