India says it is acting to resolve its workers’ crisis in AngolaMay 16th, 2012 - 11:55 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) The Indian government is “acting on all fronts” to resolve a crisis faced by its 1,100 workers at a cement factory in Angola and was ready to assist some of them who intend to return home, an official said here Wednesday.
The Indian workers are employed in a cement factory in Angola in western Africa and there has been a labour unrest at the factory due to non-payment of certain emoluments to them.
“I think that is an important matter. So, we are acting on all fronts. We hope that this could lead to an amicable situation,” Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said here.
The $860-million cement factory project employs about 1,260 workers for construction work at Sumbe in Angola and the 1,100 Indians among them were recruited by Dubai-based ETA Star.
The issue has been raised with the external affairs ministry by at least two state chief ministers - Gujarat’s Narendra Modi and Andhra Pradesh’s Kiran Kumar Reddy.
“This is a labour-related issue about non-payment of certain amounts due to them. Our understanding is that until January this year, they were being paid all their emoluments, including overtime. The problem arose in February when payments of overtime were being delayed partly because the contractor was not being paid by those who had hired him to do this work,” Akbaruddin said.
It is the Indian government’s understanding that usually most workers were paid about $300 as overtime allowance. But only $100 were being paid in American dollars and the rest in local currency in view of Angola’s regulations imposed recently.
“The workers felt that it was not appropriate to be paid in local currency, and they were protesting against that,” Akbaruddin said.
However, from March or in April, the contractor had stopped payments for the overtime work that the Indian employees did at the project.
“This meant, from the workers’ perspective that their total emoluments were being reduced, irrespective of whether they were being asked to work or not. That led to a problem from April 16 onwards and the company workers went on strike. So, they have not been working since April 16,” he said.
However, the situation went out of control May 9 or sometime near that time, when some of the workers “became very restive” after their pay was not received for long and they clashed with some of the company officials.
“And this led to the company officials calling the police which led to some violence. Fifty-nine of the company workers have been charged with various types of offences for which they would be prosecuted under the law,” he added.
But the Indian ambassador to Angola is in touch with the officials in their foreign, interior, geology, mines and industry ministries.
The other issue raised by the workers was their passports being held by the company, as it was one of the conditions for issue of visa.
“That is a smaller issue as far as those workers are concerned. Should any of them want to come back to India, the embassy would be willing to provide them emergency certificates. So, travel out of Angola for any of them is not an issue,” Akbaruddin said.
On reports of some of the workers starving, the Indian government said there was “no truth” in these.
“They are being provided food. So, there is no starvation. Of course, they are in a difficult situation and we are trying to work out with the authorities on this,” he said.
The Indian embassy officials in Sumbe are trying to work out with the company officials, while the Indian ambassador is in touch with various officials in Luanda, Anglola’s capital, while the MEA officials in New Delhi are in touch with the Angolan embassy, he added.
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Tags: american dollars, andhra pradesh, angola, cement factory, chief ministers, construction work, emoluments, eta star, external affairs ministry, gujarat, indian government, indians, kiran kumar, labour unrest, narendra modi, New Delhi, overtime work, spokesperson, sumbe, western africa