The IndustriALL Global Union Diamond Network meeting 19-21 December in Johannesburg, South Africa, attended by 25 delegates from Belgium, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, India, South Africa and Zimbabwe resolved to improve working conditions in the diamond supply chain.
The supply chain from “mine to finger” includes exploration and evaluation, mining and processing, grading and valuation, rough diamond sales, cutting, polishing and trading, and jewellery manufacturing and sales.
Seven Sub Saharan African countries are amongst the top 10 diamond producers that account for 99 per cent of global production. Botswana leads with the highest value and is the second producer in volume after Russia. Angola’s Catoca is the biggest diamond mine whilst Lesotho, despite being a small producer, is known for producing large diamonds. United Kingdom based company, Firestone Diamonds, unearthed a 46-carat stone in December 2018, and a 134-carat yellow gem in October 2017 at Liqhobong mine. Over 700,000 artisanal miners dig for diamonds from alluvial deposits in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Case studies presented by meeting participants painted a dark side. For instance, organizing diamond workers in Lesotho is difficult due its mountainous terrain, which is difficult to reach by road but accessible on horseback. Precarious work is rampant and working for 12 hours common, while the application of different laws causes confusion. As a response, the network will support an intensive organizing and recruitment drive in Lesotho.
In Botswana and Namibia, the laws favour employers, and unions are fighting unfair dismissals and retrenchments. In India there is child labour while workers in Zimbabwe earn paltry wages sometimes paid in a few grocery items like cooking oil, maize meal, sugar and salt. Further, there is no access for unions to diamond mines especially in Marange which is guarded by armed soldiers. To end this, the network resolved to put pressure on governments and offending companies to respect workers’ rights and improve working conditions. Further, protests will be made at the International Labour Organization.
The network, which was launched in Windhoek, Namibia in 2017, resolved to engage on the Kimberley Process (KP), a multistakeholder initiative to remove conflict diamonds from the supply chain. The National Union of Mineworkers will organize a workshop on KP in 2019. Collective bargaining agreements will be shared while attention given to women and health and safety.
The network extended solidarity support to Beverly Murangi who was unfairly dismissed because of her appointment as co-chair of the network. She got financial support for eight months from ACV Transcom-Belgium which was coordinated by Yves Toutenel the network’s other chairperson.
The delegates visited Petra Diamonds’ Cullinan Mine where they went over 800m underground to see the mining operations. The mine which is 100km from Johannesburg employs over 1,000 workers.
Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director of mining, diamond, gems, ornaments, jewellery and precious stones, said:
“We are demanding that the riches from the diamond supply chain be beneficial to workers. Countries should also benefit through economic development and creation of downstream industries through beneficiation. We urge companies to apply due diligence through international declarations that promote United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and other voluntary mechanisms.”