In Mali, no less than 1,158 people are concerned with unfair dismissals in mining companies, according to the National Federation of Mines and Energy. Among them, the 57 fired of LTA-Mali. “All” appeals exhausted for some, these workers live the ordeal while desperately waiting “the fate that God” will grant them.
“Since 2012, we live in precariousness that can’t be explained”, says Oumar, the voice low and eyes fixed to the ground. For ten years, he worked for LTA-sa, a subcontractor at the Sadiola mine, one of the most prolific in the country. He lived “well” with a “huge salary” until this day of June 2012 when the union of which he is the administrative secretary decides to give a 48-hour strike notice.
In the center of the demands, performance bonuses of and an increase of 7% for a period of 32 months. “At first, they tried to offer positions to labor union officials. We did not want them. The company then threatens us with dismissal”, recalls Oumar. At the time, he was in charge of scoring the workers. Everything will then go very quickly for him and his companions. The 48 hours of strikes ended, a column of 17 vehicles of the gendarmerie of Kayes landed on the site of the mine. “They enter my office and tell me that our contracts have been suspended. I told them that I did not sign contracts with the gendarmerie”, he says.
But might makes right. The 27 members of the union’s committee are dismissed. The gendarmes remain on site to prevent them from accessing the site. “We could not get over it”, Oumar said, shaking his head. From Bamako, the National Federation of Mines and Energy tries to bring the parties on the table and summons the unionists.
In the wake, the company seizes the direction of labor of Kayes of a request for dismissal. A demand approved “without delay”, according to the workers. Official reason: the strikers refused to attend the conciliation meeting. “What they actually did was wait for our arrival in Bamako to orchestrate all this”, one of them said. For him, “there is no doubt a conspiracy against them for strike with the complicity of the State”. To support the 27 licensees, Fename observes a strike for 72 hours. But the company is still going to use its muscles: thirty activists who work in the company are also dismissed.
“Often we beg. Others say “shit” but it’s understandable”.
Today, unemployed, these ex-workers of the mine of Sadiola no longer know to which saint to turn to. Their life “completely annihilated”. “Often we beg. Others say “shit” but it’s understandable”, another says in indignation. Among the 57 fired of LTA Mali, several people have divorced due to the sudden fall in their financial situation. Others died of “small illnesses” that they could not treat. Abdoulaye, 42, was an ore transporter on the mining site since 2000. His salary was around 500 000 FCFA per month. “My home is my freedom. But I have divorced today and I lost my children. And even my family abandoned me”, he said, holding his head in both hands. He whose loss of employment also resulted in that of his ex-wife whom he was supporting to set up a trade of bazin between the countries of the sub-region. In tears, he adds: “My father and my mother are all dead …” He pauses for a minute, dries his tears, then adds: “They both had small illnesses that I regularly treated. But afterwards, it became chronic and they died”. Currently, Abdoulaye only lives on small contracts of handling that he often manages to pull out of the Malian capital. He does not intend to return to work in the mines, but hopes to get his rights one day.
Rights that the workers are far from obtaining at the moment. At the initiative of the Malian employers, an arbitration board was set up to decide. The council agrees with the unionists denouncing a violation of the law by the labor inspector, but LTA will contest the decision. The Council of Ministers, which should make the decision of the arbitration board binding, was never referred to the Ministry of Labor. On the ground that “mines are not an essential sector in the Malian economy, the interruption of which could endanger the life, safety or health of persons …” Seized, the labor court also declares itself incompetent, a decision already taken by the arbitration board.
Until a decision is enforced by the authorities, the workers are gangrened by despair, poverty and frustration. “Wallahi, if they do not pay attention, we will join the jihadists. That’s clear!” shouts Oumar Dicko. “I often regret being a Malian. I do not blame those who take up arms. It is this kind of frustration that radicalizes”, he says. A sign of despair all the more great as the other mining companies do not want “LTA revolutionaries”.Aboubacar Dicko