Occupational safety and health (OSH) present a serious challenge for mineworkers in Vietnam and Mongolia. Both countries’ OSH performance is a serious concern, reflecting the lack of a national preventative safety and health culture. The ratification of ILO Convention 176 on Safety and Health in Mines (C176) provides the much-needed governance and management system necessary to address these challenges.
At a time when the coal mining industry faces an existential threat from climate change and Industry 4.0, which threatens to disrupt and radically transform their world of work, the Vietnam National Union of Coal Mining Workers (VNUCMW) and Mongolia’s Mining, Energy and General Workers Union (MEGM) benefited from strategic workshops conducted by IndustriALL Global Union.
The workshops, while focusing on OSH, were situated against the background of global mining trends and challenges and IndustriALL’s Just Transition and industrialization policies.
IndustriALL’s director for mining and diamond, gems, ornaments and jewelry production, Glen Mpufane, and Yoon Hywong, IndustriALL’s South East Asia projects coordinator, conducted the two workshops as part of collaboration between IndustriALL’s mining sector and the union building project. The strategic workshops were held on 30-31 May and 3-4 June for the VNUCMW and MEGM respectively.
While Mongolia, to its credit, ratified C176 on 26 November 2015, it is experiencing challenges with developing a national implementation roadmap. As for Vietnam, C176 is a relatively foreign concept, with the culture of blaming the worker rampant in the coal-mining sector. The action plan adopted at the end of the Vietnam workshop includes a proposal for a national OSH summit involving the tripartite stakeholders, together with an awareness-raising national campaign.
The workshop in Mongolia, where the government department of Minerals and Heavy Industries, as well as a representative from Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi mine, made presentations, brought into sharp focus the dysfunctional governance and OSH management failures in the mining industry in Mongolia.
“From a culture of unreported accidents, lack of inspections, lack of budget allocation, lack of accountability, to the complete absence of safety and health representatives and joint occupational safety and health committees, the challenges of implementing C176 are daunting but not insurmountable”
In a meeting with Rio Tinto following the strategic workshop, IndustriALL requested that Rio Tinto Oyu Tolgoi offer technical and resource assistance to the development of the implementation roadmap, to which Rio Tinto responded positively. IndustriALL met with the Secretary of State to discuss the dismal state of OSH in Mongolia and the absence of an implementation roadmap following Mongolia’s ratification.
With the Secretary of State in Mongolia
The Secretary of State committed to resource the development of the roadmap and its implementation and to immediately set up a working group in consultation with both internal and external stakeholders.
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