Saturday 29 October 2011

Workers in the frontline

The first thing that we need to acknowledge is that workers are citizen.workers are the forefront of destructive effects of hazadous on human health before they spread to the general population. Just like any citizen worker have a right to a job which is healthy and safe. Therefore struggle for health and safety begins at workplace.
Unfortunaltly for members of Vaal Community Coordinating Committee their struggle begin after they were trenched. From 1994, group of ArcelorMittal ex-employees started a campaign demanding their surpluses. Some of them they were unfairly dismiss and retrenched but to their surprise none of them receive compensation. They establish as group called Vaal Working Coordinating Committee to fight Iscor to give them their money. Little did they know that they struggle was just beginning, later they discovered that their struggle is not just about their surplus money but also they have been retrenched because some of them were too sick to work.  More than 1000 workers suspected that they are sick today because they worked for ArcelorMittal for 10, 15 and longest is 35 years. They are between the age of 40 and 60’s.

In 2009 Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, Groundwork, Benchmarks Foundation and Vaal Working Class Coordinating Committee met with ArcelorMittal management and the CEO Nku Nyembezi. In that meeting the ex-employees  demand their medical records from ArcelorMittal but they were told that a room were the files was kept got fire therefore there is no record. But workers didn't stop, they kept on asking ArcelorMittal to pay them. Then the comapny hired a Doctor to examine this workers. Testing of the workers started  on the 15 November 2010, 190 ex-employees were tested. It was agreed that attention would be given to identify predominantly the following possible occupationally-caused health impacts:

  • Noise induced hearing loss.
  • Lung functionality disease due to possible exposures to risks at AMSA plant.
  • Possible cases of heavy metal poisoning – as reflected by the presence of proteins in urine.
  • Pneumoconiosis, as detected on chest x-ray, due to occupational exposures.
  • Cases with cancer – possibly caused by exposures to carcinogenic substances at work.
Three ex-employees were too sick or incapacitated to complete the full medical evaluation. Doctor didn’t examine them but he concluded that none of these cases were related to an occupational disease. The quality of employment and exposure histories at the AMSA plant was poor, and could not be used to definitively exclude occupational causes for pathologies found.

The employees right was not respected their dignity. Just image a father working in the company being fetched from their homelands since their early ages.  Remember that is workers they were only given simple cheap masks for Protection. They didn't know dangers to which they exposed to. They were not part of any decision or partcipate in safety and health debate. Now they have to go back to their homeland sick without compensation.

VEJA believes safety at the work place cannot be left to managers. People who  are directly affected must invloved in making decisions at all levels. The role of VEJA is to facilitating the meetings between Ex-works and ArcelorMittal make sure that the process is fair and transparent. There has been number of March or protest and media campaign to highlight the pledge and show people how workers right have been infringe. We want these workers to be compensated.

The way the Ex – worker have been treated for the rest of their lives it was unjust. Some of them they don’t even have a sense of family. This workers most of tgem can't write orThey were promised better life, they were promised jobs, but how much they earned, they were just cheap labours, expose to poor working conditions and today they are bearing the brunt of medical costs.  Some of them when you ask if they giving any safe cloth (PPE) or offered safety training they don’t know what are talking about. Most of them they have high blood, sugar diabetic, feet, kidnesy, Bronchitie, Ashma, T.B, cancer and heart problem that are not regarded as occupational disease according to the company.
Some of them they went back to their homelands, they called to come for the test because ArcelorMittal refuse to find a doctor from their homeland. When they arrive they don’t have a place to stay, they are sleeping on the flows and have nothing to eat. They are staying at Kwa-masiza hostels used to be own ArcelorMittal, but after they were retrenched no services were offered to them. We have picture of waste, sanitation and water running all over around the place. The conditions that they are stating at are appealing. We still don’t if those who have passed away their families are going to be compensated.

There untlod thruth about this company that used be own by our state. This workers they hold their meetings on every Wednesday and Sunday to discuss one thing over and over again and asking themselves when are they going to get their money. This should it is a listen to those who are still in the company, four month two young worker who were not students pastway because of ihaling gas. What did ArcelorMittal do, apologising sounds like a good thing to do,yes that is exactly what the comapny did.

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