In a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, from 16 to 20 October, experts in opencast mining from the workers’ group, the governments’ group and the employers’ group were able to reach consensus on the new code of practice which will be put forward for adoption by the Governing Body in March 2018.
IndustriALL, under the auspices of the International Trade Union Confederation, coordinated the trade union experts’ participation, drawn from the following six countries; Canada, Colombia, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Zambia.
The approach of the worker’s group was based on a fundamental principle that the draft code should raise the minimum occupational health and safety floor for all mineworkers in opencast mines, even in mining jurisdictions or countries with poor health and safety legislation or countries that had not ratified ILO Convention 176.
According to Canadian affiliate, Steve Hunt, USW District 3 Director: “The draft code, which provides general principles and specific guidelines to prevent accidents and protect mineworkers’ occupational health and safety in opencast mines, will lift that minimum floor when it will support the fundamental rights and responsibilities of workers.”
These principle rights of workers include (1) the right to KNOW about the hazards of their work – fully and completely – and to receive the necessary training and education to do the work safely; (2) the right to REFUSE OR SHUT DOWN unsafe work without fear of repercussions; and (3) the right to PARTICIPATE fully in the development and implementation of health and safety policies, programmes, procedures and including risk assessments.
The task of reviewing the draft code, meant to revive the existing code of practice adopted in 1991, was daunting, given the opposing interest of the parties, who had to find each other and reach consensus. No one group was certain of the support of either of the two groups and agreement was often elusive on issues important to the parties. The fundamental principle of negotiations was that the text or language agreed or proposed could not undermine principles of the ILO Convention 176 and its recommendation.
The workers’ group is indebted to the great leadership of its nominated spokesperson, Steve Hunt, USW District 3 Director for his invaluable insight and knowledge and for his passion for mineworkers.
The meeting of experts was held following a decision of the Governing Body of the ILO at its 329th Session in March 2017 in order to review and adopt a revised code of practice on Safety and health in opencast mines. The ILO’s sectoral policies department prepared the draft code for review and adoption.