Improving the working conditions of mining companies and companies operating in free zones

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For more than ten years, SADD has been working to promote and defend the rights of workers in multinationals established in free zones and for six years, it has been working in favour of the mining companies. The organization aims to improve their living and working conditions and to promote the development of the populations living in the areas where these companies are located. SADD's action is supported by AEDH and the Foundation for Human Rights.

The situation of the workers, mostly young men or women, employed by mining companies or those established in free zones is not very good. Most of them, without any social security, are facing poor conditions at work in terms of hygiene, safety and health. In 2013, the Free Zone Administration reported that 55% of the 13,500 people employed by companies in this zone were not declared. In addition, many employers who have declared employees do not pay social security contributions. For twenty years, the employees of these companies were denied the union freedom law, whose claims are nevertheless legitimate in face of numerous cases of abusive collective dismissals, recurrent work accidents, job insecurity etc.

In mining areas, local populations suffer from the yoke of powerful and casual investors. The adverse effects of unregulated exploitation of resources are badly felt at the social, health and environmental levels. Unfortunately, there are many examples of this, whether it is houses damaged by explosives used in the mines, or the emblematic case of the village of Kini Kondji. The inhabitants of this locality, situated at 90 kilometres south-east of Lomé, with the complicit silence of the Togolese authorities, have confiscated more than 200 hectares of arable land for the benefit of a mining company. Being unable to cultivate anymore, facing soil pollution caused by farming, they are now reduced to begging.

The lack of transparency in the management of mining resources, as well as the non-compliance with national and international legislation regarding people’s rights and corporate social responsibility were recalled by the UN Human Rights Council. As of June 2011, the Council expressed its concern about "an inadequate national legislation and implementation will not effectively reduce the negative impacts of globalization nor maximize the benefits of the activities of transnational companies and other enterprises." Facing these alarming situations, SADD is rallying around several actions to defend the employees’ rights and to provide them with social security coverage. The organization is involved in outreach activities for employees of small and large groups to make them become aware of the serious social injustices in which they are victims and encourage them to commit to social transformation.

At the same time, it intends to train opinion leaders, local officials (traditional chiefs, village and neighbourhood committee leaders), union representatives, staff representatives and labour inspectors on the concepts of labour rights and social protection. Finally, SADD carries out a permanent census of attacks and rights violations committed by the mining companies or companies operating in free zones. The results of this census are then used to plea with the authorities for the legal and social improvement of these vulnerable sectors. Through this commitment, SADD promotes a generalization of the concept of corporate social responsibility, defending the principles of accountability of economic actors, transparency, ethics, and recognition of stakeholder interests, respect for international standards and Human Rights. The future SADD interventions will go a long way towards overcoming these serious social injustices that undermine these vulnerable sectors in Togo.

Yves Dossou

 

 

 

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