Re-in­te­gra­tion of mi­grant minework­ers

Lesotho Times - - Business - Adv. Karabo Tl­hoeli

THE re­turn and in­te­gra­tion is of­ten seen as a very easy part in the cy­cle of mi­gra­tion. Peo­ple mi­grate for work pur­poses with the as­sump­tion that upon re­turn they will in­vest their sav­ings or find re­mu­ner­a­tive em­ploy­ment. They also as­sume that they will ad­just to any changes in their per­sonal and fam­ily lives and pick up where they left off with very min­i­mal sup­port. The re­al­ity is far dif­fer­ent from this pic­ture de­spite the re­turn process be­ing con­sid­ered the end stage of tem­po­rary mi­gra­tion; many mi­grants are of­ten forced back into the mi­gra­tion cy­cle look­ing for new con­tracts of em­ploy­ment.

Re­turn­ing mi­grant work­ers are of­ten faced with a myr­iad of prob­lems which in­clude amongst oth­ers so­cio-psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects, fam­ily and so­cial rein­te­gra­tion prob­lems, fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, em­ploy­ment and skills re­lated prob­lems; fil­ing com­plaints against ex­ploita­tion in their home coun­tries.

By the 1970s, it was clear that Le­sotho was in­te­grated into the South African mine labour mar­ket. De­spite the ben­e­fits, there are in­di­ca­tions that the so­cial costs out­weigh the eco­nomic ben­e­fits de­rived. The high lev­els of so­cial risks are poorly com­pen­sated.

These in­clude ac­ci­dents and fa­tal­i­ties, oc­cu­pa­tional dis­eases, the fail­ure of many minework­ers and their de­pen­dants to ac­cess so­cial se­cu­rity and re­lated ben­e­fits that are due to them upon re­tire­ment or when they are re­trenched, and the dis­rup­tion of fam­ily life back home. The pro­posed so­lu­tion has al­ways been the ac­cel­er­a­tion of do­mes­tic job creation ef­forts by pro­mot­ing eco­nomic growth and im­ple­ment­ing ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing pro­grammes.

Ef­forts at rein­te­gra­tion of re- trenched Ba­sotho mi­grant minework­ers be­gan in the early 1980s when Le­sotho re­quested In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ILO) as­sis­tance to de­sign pro­grammes that would cre­ate em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for an­tic­i­pated mass repa­tri­a­tion of its cit­i­zens from the South African mines. The cur­rent in­ter­ven­tions com­prise di­rect mea­sures that fo­cus on in­di­vid­ual or groups of ex-minework­ers and their de­pen­dants, or at prepar­ing cur­rent mi­grant minework­ers for even­tual re­trench­ments; and in­di­rect in­ter­ven­tion mea­sures that aim at im­prov­ing so­cio-eco­nomic con­di­tions amongst ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties in Le­sotho where the bulk of minework­ers come from.

Cur­rently, there is no up­dated data base that could as­sist plan­ning and the track­ing of minework­ers and their de­pen­dants. There are in­di­ca­tions that re­trenched minework­ers have gone back to sub­sis­tence agri­cul­ture where there is easy en­try and where skills and cap­i­tal are the only bar­ri­ers to en­try.

There is there­fore a good chance that they will par­tic­i­pate in com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment projects as mem­bers of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in which in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment projects are be­ing im­ple­mented, as well as in skills de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes that are im­ple­mented by var­i­ous Gov­ern­ment Min­istries. How­ever, com­mu­nity projects tend to be spo­radic and of short-du­ra­tion. A more co­or­di­nated and com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach to rein­te­gra­tion is there­fore nec­es­sary.

The Non-state Sec­tors of Le­sotho and South Africa have played a piv­otal role in im­prov­ing the work and liv­ing con­di­tions of minework­ers at the South African mines through cam­paigns against the in­jus­tices and in­hu­man con­di­tions of the mine mi­grant labour sys­tem. South African trade unions, in par­tic­u­lar NUM, and NGOS both in South Africa and Le­sotho forced min­ing com­pa­nies to im­prove health and safety and re­duce fa­tal­i­ties in the mines, to im­prove the salaries of minework­ers, to in­tro­duce so­cial se­cu­rity pro­tec­tion, to agree on ac­cept­able pro­to­cols for re­trench­ments and to de­sign de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes, in­clud­ing re-skilling pro­grammes, that aim at re­duc­ing suf­fer­ing amongst re­trenched minework­ers and their de­pen­dants.

De­vel­op­ment agents that op­er­ate as ser­vice providers for min­ing houses by im­ple­ment­ing the lat­ter’s cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity pro­grammes have re­lieved pres­sure on Le­sotho’s na­tional health sys­tem. Their in­fra­struc­ture re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and food se­cu­rity in­ter­ven­tions have also gone a long way to as­sist lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

De­spite the fact that the minework­ers’ or­ga­ni­za­tions con­tinue to per­form a role of fight­ing for ex-minework­ers’ ben­e­fits, their ef­forts are not well co­or­di­nated with each other and with those of the Min­istry of Labour and Em­ploy­ment.

For in­stance, there is weak co­or­di­na­tion amongst agen­cies that are in­volved in the trac­ing of both ex-minework­ers and their so­cial se­cu­rity ben­e­fits, du­pli­ca­tion of ac­tiv­i­ties be­ing found to be com­mon. There is also a clash of laws where minework­ers’ con­tracts are signed in Le­sotho in ac­cor­dance with Le­sotho laws, but are amended at the mines by em­ploy­ers to en­able minework­ers to con­trib­ute to so­cial se­cu­rity schemes that are ad­min­is­tered in ac­cor­dance with South African laws. It is lack of man­age­ment of this process and clear def­i­ni­tion of pro­to­cols that has re­sulted in con­fu­sion and lack of proper ac­count­abil­ity for minework­ers’ ben­e­fits.

There is cur­rently no com­pre­hen- sive na­tional pol­icy guid­ing the op­er­a­tions of the mine mi­grant labour sys­tem in Le­sotho. While most of the prac­tices are done in ac­cor­dance with the out­dated Bi­lat­eral Labour Agree­ment 1973 be­tween Le­sotho and South Africa and rel­e­vant sec­tions of the 1992 Le­sotho Labour Code whilst South Africa has from time to time passed its own poli­cies and leg­is­la­tion that di­rectly af­fect the sys­tem.

A new and com­pre­hen­sive Le­sotho Labour Pol­icy that ad­dresses, amongst oth­ers, labour mi­gra­tion and em­ploy­ment creation is long over­due. The re­cently val­i­dated pol­icy at­tempts to cover broad ar­eas of labour mi­gra­tion. The en­vis­aged Le­sotho Labour Pol­icy sug­gests a num­ber of in­ter­ven­tions that are di­rectly tar­geted at re­trenched minework­ers.

It is through it that the Gov­ern­ment aims at Max­i­miz­ing em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for Ba­sotho women and men glob­ally by en­gag­ing in re­gional, multi-lat­eral and bi-lat­eral labour ar­range­ments to fa­cil­i­tate and stream­line the cross bor­der flow of labour mi­grants be­tween Le­sotho and other coun­tries, re­gion­ally and glob­ally while sup­port­ing Le­sotho women and men mi­grant work­ers in host coun­tries. The fol­low­ing strate­gies will be adopted: Ex­plore work op­por­tu­ni­ties for Ba­sotho sur­plus labour in other coun­tries and fa­cil­i­tate le­gal labour mi­gra­tion to fill iden­ti­fied labour mar­ket gaps through the pur­suit of bi­lat­eral/mul­ti­lat­eral labour agree­ment ne­go­ti­a­tions. Pro­mote in­ter-agency and in­ter-coun­try co­op­er­a­tion in at­tract­ing and man­ag­ing labour mi­gra­tion.

Sup­port Le­sotho’s women and men mi- grant work­ers through ded­i­cated pre­de­par­ture and re­turn in­ter­ven­tions, and sup­port ser­vices while they work and re­side in des­ti­na­tion coun­tries. Im­prove mi­gra­tion man­age­ment and con­trol, and strengthen mech­a­nisms to com­bat smug­gling, hu­man traf­fick­ing and sex­ual ex­ploita­tion of women and girls. Adopt con­sti­tu­tional guar­an­tees and statu­tory frame­works fa­cil­i­tat­ing pro­tec­tion of women and men mi­grant work­ers and their fam­i­lies abroad. Pro­mote and safe­guard the rights and wel­fare of Ba­sotho women and men mi- grant work­ers in des­ti­na­tion coun­tries. De­velop mech­a­nisms, ser­vices and ef­fec­tive fi­nan­cial prod­ucts to fa­cil­i­tate the trans­fer of re­mit­tances With the ad­vent of glob­al­i­sa­tion, ush­er­ing tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments and knowl­edge based economies; labour mar­kets are chang­ing rapidly in­ter­na­tion­ally. In order for Le­sotho to max­imise ben­e­fits from labour mi­gra­tion, she should move away from the ex­port of un­skilled labour to that of skilled labour.

This shift should be ac­com­pa­nied by a di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion strat­egy where for­mal mi­gra­tion pat­terns move to other sec­tors other than min­ing, and where bi­lat­eral labour agree­ments should also be di­ver­si­fied to other coun­tries be­yond South Africa. As a longterm strat­egy, this re­quires the de­vel­op­ment of a na­tional skills au­dit, the in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of hu­man resources de­vel­op­ment and skills de­vel­op­ment, and the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of coun­tries in need of labour with which bi­lat­eral la- bour agree­ments could be forged and signed.

This ar­ti­cle has been writ­ten by the Min­istry of Labour and Em­ploy­ment. For more in­for­ma­tion, do not hes­i­tate to con­tact us here: Tel: 22322565/22316255 Cell: 57905626 You can also find us on our Min­istry’s web­site: www.labour.gov.ls OR on our facebook page (Min­istry of Labour and Em­ploy­ment Le­sotho)

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