Diamond polishing and cutting workers are facing a bleak future, the Botswana Diamond Workers Union (BDWU) chairman Modiri Kesabetswe has said.
The unionist said the diamond cutting and polishing industry is currently going through a rough patch, which threatens its profitability.
Due to a number of retrenchments and job losses which have gripped the industry, Kesabetswe said the workers are seriously disturbed and frustrated.
He said the recent news of retrenchments by some of the big diamond companies like Teemane Manufacturing Company (TMC) and the Gaborone based Diamond Manufacturing Botswana (DMB) led to financial hardships among the workers.
“Towards the end of 2014, Leo Schachter, which is based in Molepolole, retrenched about 28 workers. During that time, management indicated that they may be forced to dismiss more workers by the end of March this year. There was yet another retrenchment at Eurostar Botswana where 138 employees were laid off,” he said.
He said they are also privy to other retrenchments that happened in other companies, where workers are not allowed to unionise like SAFDICO.
He added that other companies with retrenchments looming are Laurelton Diamonds and Pluczenik.
He said the companies that are retrenching staff alluded to high prices of rough diamonds, which they are obligated to buy from DeBeers, and high costs of operating in Botswana as major handicaps for their business.
He further pointed out that it could be true that operational costs are high in Botswana as compared to others in Asia.
What is disturbing, according to him, is that these employers and their association are not willing to share the problems they encounter, as they prefer to hold secret meetings with the government, at the exclusion of the Union.
Kesabetswe also complained that employers are also hesitant to consult with them in time regarding looming retrenchments, rather they are engaged after they have taken final decisions.
He warned that the current retrenchments all point to the undeniable fact that the Botswana diamond industry is in crisis and facing possible collapse, if serious measures to rescue the industry are not taken.
He said another prominent feature of the situation is the disregard of employees’ rights and welfare by employers, in terms of fair consultation and retrenchments packages.