As workers down tools – Vimetco Sierra Leone at a standstill
Over two years, the Vimetco Bauxite Mining Company has had six General Managers, a situation that has not gone down well with the workers as the frequent change of General Managers negatively impacted the operation of the company.
Recently, the South African General Manager, Theo Keyter, resigned unexpectedly and his sudden resignation caused widespread resentment among the workers who regard him as the ‘Moses’ who came to liberate them from the bondage of the Romanian Managers.
On Friday, March 22nd, the workers went on a sit-down strike bringing the operation of the company to a halt. In an interview with this medium at the Vimetco office at Gondama Plant Site, the striking workers vowed that they will not resume work until Theo Keyter comes back to work, describing Mr. Keyter as a classical example of a good General Manager who is concerned about their welfare.
The aggrieved workers noted that during Mr. Keyter’s few months in office, they had started to see the light at the end of the tunnel and they just cannot afford to lose such a result-oriented General Manager. “No Keyter, no Vimetco,” they yelled. The workers further noted that Theo Keyter’s management was characterized by drastic improvement in production, general staff welfare, and equality in the treatment of all staff.
On the contrary, they went on, Vimetco under the Romanian leadership was characterized by poor production, blatant disrespect for local workers and pitiable conditions of service. The workers described the Romanian expatriates as highly non-professional and sub-standard from whom the local workers did not learn anything meaningful. They attributed the damage of much equipment to the high level of unprofessionalism among the Romanian expatriates most of whom, they said, were imported into the company without the knowledge and consent of the South African Management and the local staff.
Citing a recent example, the workers said Rumanian expatriate, Misu Plopeanu, who beat up a local worker and was, consequently, withdrawn, has been brought back to the company as Finance Manager without the knowledge and consent of the local staff. They made it crystal clear that the reappearance of Misu Plopeanu has terrorized them as they know him to be a very aggressive and violent human being. The protesting workers recalled that the poor management style of the Romanians led to a brain drain in the company with many professionals vacating to seek greener pastures.
The disgruntled workers alleged that under the Romanian Management, they were among the least paid workers in Sierra Leone and that they had very poor transportation and accommodation facilities, citing that among all the local workers, only the Mining Manager was entitled to a vehicle. However, they went on, Theo Keyter, during his few months as General Manager, fought tooth and nail to improve their conditions of service. “Why should such an excellent General Manager be frustrated to the point of resigning so early at a time we need him most?” they asked.
Theo Keyter is yet to pronounce the reasons for his untimely and unexpected resignation but trustworthy sources have informed this medium that he resigned primarily because of his own budget, which he drew in consultation with the local workers and which included the improvement of conditions of service for local workers, could not be approved by the Romanians. Our sources have also disclosed that while he was serving as General Manager, Mr. Keyter was perpetually frustrated by the Romanians who sent expatriates as spies without his knowledge and consent.
It has also been revealed that the Romanians jubilated on the day Mr. Keyter resigned and now they are accusing him of inciting the workers and have cut off all communication from him, but the striking workers are determined that without Theo Keyter they will never resume work. The strikers are also demanding that all their other grievances be addressed.
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