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Chinese Tannery Workers Strike Over Lax Safety

Friendship Tannery Plc, a Chinese-owned company, suspended operation for the past two weeks after its employees strike to protest against an accident with an employee of the Company.

At least 1,720 workers at the Tannery went on strike on October 14, 2017. The protests surfaced just a day after Ermias Tadesse, 21, was injured. He works as an aesthetician who beautifies the hides using different machines.

He lost his left hand in the accident despite being taken to the hospital by fellow employees right after he was injured, according to workers at the company. This happened eight months after another employee, Sete Welde, lost both her hands.

“They could not even provide a vehicle for me during the accident,” said Ermias, who earns 110 Br a day. “I went to the hospital in a cab.”

Ermias did not wear any safety gear when the accident occurred, according to Shambel Megra, an employee of the Company, who witnessed the accident.

The general manager of the Company confirmed the occurrence of the accident but declined to comment on the issue.

Since the strike, the Company gave notice to the employees to get back to work. But, the employees said that they will not return to their workplace until the problems are resolved.

The Company has already sent its concerns to the Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs (MoLSA) and Oromia Regional Administration, according to Samuel Motuma, communications officer of Modjo Labour & Social Affairs Office.

Operational for the past seven years at Modjo, 74.3Km from Addis Abeba, Friendship is known for producing and exporting finished leather, gloves, shoes and bags. It has been criticised for having low labour safety conditions for its employees since its inception.

However, in the past eight months, the number of injured people working inside the company has grown, reaching 152 up until the suspension of the Tannery, according to Modjo town’s Labour & Social Affairs Office.

Samuel relates the repetition of the accidents in the tannery to the lack of awareness amongst the employees.

“Lack of training, ageing of the machines and low provision of safety gears for the workers, are the major causes of the accidents,” said Samuel. “Due to these reasons, the company has frequently been warned. But, we have not seen any change even then.”

Safety gears are usually given to employees who work in chemical processing department, according to Yonas Tufa, head of Retaining Department in the Tannery.

“Although the job needs extra care, the employees do not use the safety gears properly,” he said.

Friendship is one of the 32 tanneries found in the country.

Our efforts to contact the shareholders and executive management of the company bore no fruit. But, employees of the company confirmed to Fortune that the top level management of the Company has travelled out of the country for a work purpose.

Source : Fortune

Tags: Friendship Tannery PLC,, Tanneries in Ethiopia,

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