Senators urge government to protect rights of miners

The government should move swiftly to organise miners and ensure that those working part-time or without contracts become full-time employees with rights and obligations, senators have said.
Minister Imena appear before the Senate on Thursday. (John Mbanda)
Minister Imena appear before the Senate on Thursday. (John Mbanda)

The government should move swiftly to organise miners and ensure that those working part-time or without contracts become full-time employees with rights and obligations, senators have said.

The lawmakers delivered the message to Evode Imena, the minister of state for mining, who was appearing before the Senate, on Thursday, to give updates on what government is doing to develop the mining sector.

The lawmakers said the mining sector is growing at the detriment of mine workers, with many of them continuing to work part-time and without contracts, medical insurances, and are paid measly sums.

“It is clear that many miners don’t have insurance against accidents, they have no health insurance, and they are not given contracts. They are instead employed on a part-time basis and for long, and they aren’t paid enough to support themselves and their families,”the senators wrote in a letter to the government.

“What is the government doing to ensure that employee’s rights for mineworkers are respected and their work seen as a profession that support  them and their families?”

Working with trade unions

In his response, Imena said government would work with associations of miners and their employers to ensure that they become full time employees with rights and responsibilities.

Imena revealed that 76.6 per cent of the 36,000 miners in the country remain part-time workers who are often vulnerable to abuse from employers.

“We have to ensure that miners who have been working for a long time become full-time employees with rights and obligations. As the ministry, we will work with trade unions to ensure that employers accord miners security with clear work schedules and contracts,” Imena said.

The minister said many miners end up with continuous work without contracts because their employers are not professional enough to plan their activities according to the scale of concessions.

Even if mineral prices dropped on the international market last year, with the country fetching only $194.5 million from mineral revenue against a target of $251.2 million, Imena said there is still hope that Rwanda will fetch $400 million in mineral revenue by 2017.

That will require special efforts, the minister said, such as increasing the volume of mineral production, diversifying the type of minerals the country exports, and adding value to minerals before they are exported by smelting and refining them.

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