Hundreds of workers in Burkina Faso, formerly associated with the mining company Societes Mines de Belahauro (SMB), staged a protest last week, demanding compensation for the loss of their jobs. The workers were employees of the Inata Mine which was closed in 2017. Around 1,000 workers, including contract workers, lost their jobs due to the closure.
SMB was first sold to Avocet Mining and later to Balaji Group. After buying the Inata gold mine in 2018, the Balaji Group has neither resumed production nor paid the workers. The workers rejected the company’s proposal to reduce benefits by up to 40%.
On March 1, hundreds of workers assembled in the capital city of Ouagadougou, carrying placards that highlighted illegal cooperation between the authorities and the Balaji Group, which has operations in numerous countries, including India, Iraq, Kuwait, Malaysia, Philippines, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
The workers demanded a tripartite meeting, seeking payment of wages backdated to November 2017, pension benefits to those who were contributing, retirement benefits to those who were within five years of retirement, as well as payment of medical benefits.
The workers should have been paid compensation when the ownership of company was transferred. “Workers’ efforts to negotiate are falling on deaf ears or met with bad faith from the Balaji Group, while the ministry of mines is notoriously negligent,” stated a worker.
“The suffering of SMB workers shows the lengths to which some errant mining companies will go to avoid paying compensation. As part of the union building project, we are always alert to deal with these injustices against workers,” Charlotte Nguessan, project coordinator at IndustriALL Global Union, said.
Although they have been without jobs since the mine closed, the workers are not relenting. The plight of workers in the state has prompted several activist groups, such as Federation des Industries Diverses, to launch a campaign demanding that the Ghana-based Balaji Group pay the workers.