The Labour Office in Rumphi says over 50 people working in mines in the district have been forced to go on unpaid leave.
Rumphi Assistant Labour Officer, Anthony Kalagho has expressed concern over increase in such cases of sending workers on unpaid leave by mining companies in the District.
Kalagho disclosed this on Monday during engagement meeting at Kaziwiziwi and Mchenga Coal Mines which was organized by Rumphi Women Forum aimed at establishing if companies are adhering to workers’ rights.
In his remarks, Kalagho said over 50 cases have been reported to his office for workers who were either sent for unpaid leave or were on actual dismissal from work by employers from coal mines and other companies in the district.
“Since Covid-19 hit the country as a whole a lot of cases have been reported to my office as we can compare with past time we did not have such number of cases and it is very worrisome.
“It is unacceptable for any employer to force out a worker to go on unpaid leave. Normally that should be done on voluntary basis.
“Our labour laws, clearly states that a worker has to apply for such leave. The moment a worker applies for a leave means he or she is going to receive those benefits they are entitled to for the duration of that period they will be away from their place of work,” he explained.
He then emphasized that employers need to give notice to workers before sending them to any holiday and that they should pay each worker all financial benefits they are entitled to before sending them out.
To sort out this malpractice, he disclosed that his office will be engaging workers and employers to sensitize them on the current labour laws so that employers should be operating within the precincts of rule of law.
Kaziwiziwi Coal Mine Administrator, Beforce Nyirenda, agreed with Kalagho’s sentiments but argued his company had not sent of its workers to such leave despite sailing through the financial hiccups as a result of Covid-19.
“I may agree with such concerns but as a company we have not sent anyone to unpaid leave or declaring them redundant or worse more retrenching them even though most markets that were buying coal from us have been closed due to Covid-19.
“We are remaining with only Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company as our sole product buyer, the situation that has strained our financial resource to operate normally,” observed Nyirenda.
Activist Lyson Mkandawire said it has been a big challenge for workers being dismissed from working areas in the district that is why the organization had to undertake the initiative to put to an end such alleged malpractices.
“We thought it wise to engage workers from different companies as we all know that most people rights are being violated in their working places working on those reports we decided to engage workers from different places to find ways to deal with such malpractices,” said Mkandawire.
Mkandawire urged those workers who are being deprived from work places to come forth and report any kind of abuse to labour offices so that the matter should be looked into according to labour laws.