|12. June 2009
After privatization: Increasing number of accidents and deaths in the mining industry
Poor labour inspections, fewer health check-ups, low safety and environmental standards all add up to an increasing number of accidents and deaths.The mining industry in Zambia urgently needs to improve its domestic laws based on international labour standards, so as to guarantee the respect of core labour rights of thousands of workers that risk their lives everyday. But the low budget prevents the government from acting effectively, especially after the privatization of the mines.
Jessie Ngoma-Simengwa investigated the issue of health and safety in Zambian copper mines owned by an Indian company, telling the story of a worker who got seriously injured in a blast caused by the lack of necessary safety measures.
Miners say that many have unsatisfactory protective clothing, while others are compelled to acquire such from their own resources. Safety inspections and periodical medical check-ups have gone down in the post-privatization era, reports Ngoma-Simengwa. But the government says the Ministry of Labour does not have capacity to train medical personnel, due to the tight budget, and it has no measuring equipment nor motor vehicles to enable it to conduct on-the-spot inspections.
The author of the article, “Plight of a Zambian mine accident victim”, won the journalistic prize for the best story on labour rights, awarded by the International Training Centre of the ILO (ITC-ILO), the training arm of the ILO.
Ngoma-Simengwa’s article was selected among stories written by professional journalists who attended the training courses on “Communicating Labour Rights”, yearly organized by the ITC-ILO. The courses introduce journalists and media professionals, especially those from developing countries, to international labour standards, with the aim of raising public awareness of their relevance to local labour and social issues.
The award ceremony took place in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday 12 June 2009, during the 98th Session of the International Labour Conference.
Jessie Ngoma-Simengwa works for the Times of Zambia (www.times.co.zm/). She is an official of the Zambia Union of Journalists and currently occupies the position of secretary for the Ndola Chapel of the Times, where she is also a Peer Educator on HIV/AIDS matters.
Among the articles she has written and published by Times of Zambia are ‘Horrifying Risks of Abortion’, ‘Occupational Health, Safety at Workplaces Revisited’ and ‘Workers Celebrate World Day for Decent Work’.