aronga district labour officer Peck Chawinga has urged workers at Hara Coal Mine to form a workers’ union to increase their bargaining power for good working conditions with their employer.
He made the call on Monday during an inspection tour of the site to appreciate the working conditions and safety compliance measures.
Chawinga’s visit came three weeks after a similar tour to the site that recommended the closure of one of the tunnels due to its bad state.
However, his team was disappointed to establish that the tunnel, which was described as a death trap, was still operational and that workers were yet to receive their September salaries.
Said Chawinga: “Having inspected the mine and interacted with the workers, we have established that their working conditions have not improved.
“For example, some are still getting below government’s recommended minimum wage of K50 000, some are yet to receive protective equipment and salaries are paid late.”
He urged workers to form a union to increase their bargaining powers.
Hara Coal Mine Company manager Evason Msiska admitted that the tunnel was not closed as directed, but dismissed the poor pay claims, saying the lowest-paid get K45 000 monthly.
“We are trying to rectify things. Right now we have distributed protective equipment to 95 percent of our workers,” he said.
Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice (CCJP) of Karonga Diocese project coordinator Obert Mkandawire, whose organisation facilitated the tour, expressed concern over the delay to address challenges the workers were facing.
With funding from the Danish Church Aid and Norwegian Church Aid, CCJP is implementing Enhancing Social Accountability in Local Governance to Reduce Inequalities for an Inclusive Malawi Project in the district.