Malawi NGO’s letter to Paladin on industrial action at Kayelekera

We trust this finds you well. We kindly write to advice that we are concerned and monitoring with keen interest the developments at Kayelekera in light of the industrial action.

As NGOs, we strongly believe that decent conditions for  workers at Kayerekera Uranium Mine (KUM) and community members living in the mine catchment area is an important step in increasing human dignity, economic equity and social justice.

We raise this in light of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) Articles 3 and 25 on liberty and security of person, and on standards of living adequate for the health and well-being of each individual and his family provide that state parties to the Declaration shall take all appropriate measures to improve health and safety in working conditions for mine workers as well as individuals in communities near uranium mines.

We note with regret that Malawians and other workers at KUM have alleged put up with exploitative conditions such as low wages, firing willy-nilly, serious health hazards like lack of safety gear albeit the exposure to radon-dust during rock blasting. As you know, radon gas being a fine particle can travel thousands of kilometres from its source in the direction of winds.

Striking workers at Kayelekera

We hope that your company is doing all it can to guarantee safe working conditions in light of International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), International Labour Organisation (ILO) and International Organization for  standardization (ISO 26000) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guidelines.

The industrial action at Kayelekera therefore provides an opportunity for Paladin to show that it can live above standards by respecting the right to wage bargaining as things are done in Australia and Canada; with this, Paladin will export best practice as it has always stated.

Uranium mine workers and any other mine’s representative leaders require an equal voice and a seat at the table to negotiate meaningfully safer and better working conditions. We advocate for fair and open negotiations between Paladin and its workers who have outstanding and valid concerns to be resolved amicably.

In furtherance, we are aware of a special labour agreement which exist between the Government of Malawi and Paladin Energy Ltd; the agreement has tenets which may infringe on the constitutional rights of many Malawians who are employed at the mine as it allows the company to take certain actions which may violate the Employment Act in Malawi.2

We trust that Paladin’s actions will respect Malawian Labour laws and international human rights instruments. We are of the view that multi-national corporations play key roles in developing global economies and we therefore commend Paladin’s investments in Malawi as we understand that such investments can contribute social economic rights of people in countries like Malawi if properly done.

But MNCs have to exercise due-diligence in their operations and we think Paladin will exactly do that in how it engages with workers at its Kayelekera uranium mine.

We trust that Paladin will look seriously into the grievances of the workers and we kindly anticipate your response on these concerns. We hope that you will appreciate our position to monitor the events at Kayelekera with keen interest.

Sincerely,

*Reinford Mwangonde is Executive Director Citizens for Justice-(CFJ), Friends of the Earth

*Undule Mwakasungula is Executive Director of  Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation-(CHRR)

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