Workers Detail Abuse in Chinese-Owned Mines in Zambia

 
Chinese-run copper mining companies in Zambia routinely flout labor laws and regulations designed to protect workers’ safety and the right to organize, according to the group Human Rights Watch in a recent release.
 
 
Zambia’s newly elected president, Michael Sata, a longtime critic of the Chinese labor practices, should act on his campaign promises to end the abuse and improve government regulation of the mining industry to ensure that all companies respect Zambia’s labor laws, according to officials with HRW. (WCxKit)
 
 
The 122-page report, “You’ll Be Fired If You Refuse’: Labor Abuses in Zambia’s Chinese State-Owned Copper Mines,” details the persistent abuses in Chinese-run mines, including poor health and safety conditions, regular 12-hour and even 18-hour shifts involving arduous labor, and anti-union activities, all in violation of Zambia’s national laws or international labor standards.
 
 
The four Chinese-run copper mining companies in Zambia are subsidiaries of China Non-Ferrous Metals Mining Corporation, a state-owned enterprise under the authority of China’s highest executive body. Copper mining is the lifeblood of the Zambian economy, contributing nearly 75 percent of the country’s exports and two-thirds of the central government revenue.
 
 
The report is centered on observations conducted during several field missions in November 2010 and July 2011 and draws on more than 170 interviews, including with 95 mine workers from the country’s four Chinese copper operations and 48 mine workers from other multinational copper mining operations. Miners at Chinese-run firms claim they were pleased that the companies had made a major investment in the copper mines and created jobs. However, they described abusive employment conditions that violate national and international standards and fall short of practices among other multinational copper mining companies in the country.
 
 
Between Oct. 5 and Oct. 12, 2011, miners at three of the four Chinese-run copper mining operations initiated strikes, hopeful that the new government’s election would create an environment for improved conditions. Production ground to a halt. On Oct. 19, Non-Ferrous China Africa, the longest-operating Chinese-owned copper mine, fired at least 1,000 striking workers. After government pressure in subsequent days, NFCA agreed to reinstate them. Reuters reported that NFCA’s chief executive officer said that the reinstated workers would be screened and the “troublemakers” disciplined.
 
 
Miners from the Chinese-owned companies reported consistently poor health and safety standards, including inadequate ventilation that can lead to serious lung diseases, the failure to replace workers’ damaged protective equipment, and routine threats to fire workers who refuse to work in unsafe places underground. These practices, combined with the already dangerous nature of copper mining, cause injuries and other health complications. At times, Chinese managers bribe or threaten miners to keep them from reporting accidents or other problems to the government’s Mines Safety Department, the miners said.
 
 
In addition to their poor safety standards, several Chinese-run copper operations in Zambia require miners to work brutally long shifts, despite difficult conditions involving extreme heat and contact with acids and noxious chemicals. Many miners at Sino Metals work five 12-hour shifts a week as well as a sixth 18-hour “change shift” when they rotate from the day shift to the night shift or vice versa. Other miners there described working 365 days without a single day off. Zambian law specifies a 48-hour work week, and every other multinational copper mining company uses 8-hour shifts that comply with this law. Several miners said the long hours contributed to accidents, and many complained about failing to receive proper overtime.
 
 
The curtailment of union activity hampers the ability to address these and other issues of concern to workers – particularly pay, which is higher than Zambia’s monthly minimum wage, but much lower than that paid by other multinational copper mining firms in Zambia.
 
 
Several Chinese-run operations have prevented workers from exercising their right to join the labor union of their choice through threats and intimidation. Miners in companies run by the Chinese or other multinationals also described retaliation against outspoken union representatives, including docked pay or refusal to renew their contracts. (WCxKit)
 
 
Primary responsibility for ensuring that Zambia’s copper mining companies operate in accordance with national and international standards rests with the Zambian government. It has a Mines Safety Department within the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development that is responsible for enforcing the country’s mining regulations, including on health and safety.
 
 
Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. He is an editor and contributor to Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
 
 
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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contactInfo@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Trio of Massachusetts Masonry Companies Nailed for Failure to Pay Correct Wages

 
Three Massachusetts masonry companies and their owners have been ordered to pay more than $68,000 for failing to pay the prevailing wage, according to information from Attorney General Martha Coakley.
 
 
Investigators of the Fair Labor Division conducted site inspections at nine public construction projects.  During these site inspections, the investigators observed and filmed employees performing masonry tasks, such as cutting block or brick with a masonry saw. A review of the certified payroll records submitted by these companies to the awarding authorities showed that the employers misclassified their masonry workers as laborers, and consequently failed to pay the employees the prevailing wage rate. (WCxKit)
 
 
The Department of Labor Standards (“DLS” – formerly the Division of Occupational Safety) is statutorily authorized to set the prevailing wage rates for all public construction projects in Massachusetts and to determine which tasks fall into which job classifications.  In 2004 and 2008, the DLS issued letters stating that cutting brick or block is a masonry task.
 
 
The AGO cited the following three companies and their owners for violations at the following public construction projects:
 
 
1.      D’Agostino Associates, Inc. of Newton, and John D’Agostino, 84, of West Newton were fined a total of $30,000 for four violations: Norwood High School; Hanover High School; Avery Elementary School in Dedham; and Natick High School.
 
 
2.      Lighthouse Masonry, Inc. of New Bedford, and Paul M. Alves, 43, of North Dartmouth were fined a total of $22,500 for three violations: Wayland High School; Salem State University; and the Ruane Judicial Center in Salem.
 
 
3.      Fernandes Masonry, Inc. of New Bedford, and Victor M. Fernandes, 39, of Acushnet were fined a total of $15,000 for two violations: Westboro Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade project and the Weston Public Works project.
 
 
Each company was ordered to pay a $7,500 fine for each wage violation and pay restitution to their employees for the one hour’s worth of time which the investigators observed. (WCxKit)
 
 
Additionally, the Attorney General’s Office ordered Lighthouse Masonry and Paul Alves to pay a $500 fine for failing to submit true & accurate certified payroll records at the Ruane Judicial Center project due to its failure to list one of its employees, observed by the investigators, on the certified payroll record.
 
 
 
Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
 

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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact

NLRB Says Workers Should Not Have Lost Jobs for Facebook Postings

The National Labor Relations Board said earlier this month that a non-profit in organization in Buffalo was wrong to fire five workers for Facebook postings that criticized working conditions, and disclosed that it has more than two dozen cases involving worker complaints aired on the social media site.
 
 
According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, the NLRB complaint against Hispanics United of Buffalo reaffirms the agency's position in a prior case that labor law permits employees to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with co-workers and others—including postings on social-media sites. (WCxKit)
 
 
In the recent complaint, an employee of Hispanics United who was slated to meet with management regarding working conditions posted on Facebook a co-worker's allegation that employees didn't assist the nonprofit's clients enough, the NLRB said. That post attracted responses from other employees who defended their work and blamed conditions like work loads and staffing issues. When Hispanics United learned about the postings, it released the five employees who participated, stating their comments were harassment of the employee originally mentioned in the post, the NLRB remarked.
 
 
The NLRB claimed the Facebook discussion was "protected concerted activity" under the National Labor Relations Act. The earlier case was brought to the agency by a union representing an employee of ambulance company American Medical Response of Connecticut.
 
 
In that incident, the employee posted comments regarding her supervisor and responded to further comments from her co-workers. That case was settled in February when the company agreed to revamp its rules to ensure they don't restrict workers rights. A separate, private settlement was reached between the company and the employee, though terms weren't disclosed. (WCxKit)
 
 
According to NLRB spokeswoman, at least three other complaints have been issued from regional offices since the American Medical Response case. All of those appear to have been settled, she added.
 
 
Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact:Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com or 860-553-6604.

 
Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Only Non-Smokers Hired at Detroit Hospitals

Three Michigan hospitals are among health systems that state they will only hire tobacco-free employees.
 
 
According to the Detroit News, Crittenton Hospital Medical Center, Bixby Medical Center, and Herrick Medical Center have put in place such policies to be smoke-free. (WCxKit)
 
 
Laura Ritzler of ProMedical, the health system that owns Bixby and Herrick, stated that reduced employee health costs is a big driving force behind the move. According to the hospitals, not hiring smokers is an extension of their health-promotion policies and missions.
 
 
Meantime, some wonder if such moves violate the rights of the 20 percent of Americans who smoke.
According to the American Lung Association, 29 states, not including Michigan, and the District of Columbia have laws that prohibit employers from employment-related discrimination against those who light up.
 
 
Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University School of Public Health, is quoted in the Detroit News as stating “Employers who are doing this are basically saying discrimination is OK, at least on this category of smokers.” (WCxKit)
 
 
According to Siegel, such bans could lead to likewise actions against those who are overweight.
 
 
Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact:Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com or 860-553-6604.
 
 
 
Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Unintended Consequences – New York Construction Industry Fair Play Act Defending Negligence Claims

Presumptions are a useful method by which courts and administrative bodies save themselves time and trouble by simply “assuming” that certain facts are already proven, unless someone wishes to prove otherwise. Usually, an assumption is made for the facts on a single instance, with no long-standing, ongoing consequences for any party. That is no longer the case
 
 
The “Fair Play Act” (NY Labor Law, Article 25A) makes a presumption so sweeping that its consequences may not have been appreciated at the time of passage in 2010. It contains (Sect. 861-c) a presumption that any person performing services for a construction contractor is an employee of that contractor – unless an elaborate set of steps (15 or more) is taken to rebut the presumption. Such a presumption would make a worker covered under the contractor’s work comp policy – but what if the worker wanted to sue the contractor instead? Such suits are quite common – and quite lucrative. (WCxKit)
 

In that case
, the contractor has a benefit never before given – an assumption that the negligence case must be dismissed – even though the two parties have never given any indication that they had an employer/employee relationship. To resolve these matters, the WCB is given exclusive power to determine if such a relationship exists.
 
 
The employer can remain silent and compel the worker to prove that all fifteen indicia existed which would show that he was not an employee, however, the employer is better off immediately serving a subpoena upon the negligence plaintiff, appearing in the comp claim, for all business and tax records going back as far as they are maintained. (IRS records, in NY, can be obtained by serving a subpoena on the worker, directing that he produce certified copies of his federal tax returns.)
 
 
Regardless of what presumptions, and the contractor’s records, might show, there is no substitute for seeing what the worker has been representing, under penalty of perjury, to the IRS. True, the NY comp and labor laws allow for inconsistent findings that permit a person to be an employee for some purposes and an independent contractor for tax purposes – but many workers would prefer not to have to explain their tax returns at length. And the explanations might drift toward exploring the validity of deductions.
 
 
When passing the Fair Play Act, the legislature was assuredly not intending to hand plaintiff negligence lawyers in construction accidents a can of worms, much less a den of rattlesnakes, but that is precisely what it has done. Defense of construction site accidents will be experiencing a sea-change in 2011. (WCxKit)
 
 
Note: The subpoena is issued under Sect. 119 of the NY Work Comp Law since, at this point, the matter is before the Workers Compensation Board. Enforcement of the subpoena is, however, in Supreme Court for the county where the comp hearing is heard, and is subject to the Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR).
 

Author: Attorney Theodore Ronca is a practicing lawyer from Aquebogue, New York. He is a frequent writer and speaker, and has represented employers in the areas of workers' compensation, Social Security disability, employee disability plans, and subrogation for over 30 years. Attorney Ronca can be reached at 631-722-2100.

 
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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2010 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Know the Three Criteria for Whether Interns Must Be Paid

The Department of Labor (DOL) is telling employers if you’ve got unpaid interns, odds are you’re breaking the law.
 
The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division reports it’s cracking down on organizations failing to pay interns properly — and it’s expanding efforts to educate companies, colleges and students on the law regarding internships.
 
“If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law,” said Nancy Leppink, the acting director of the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division.
 
The reason this problem is just now coming to light: Interns haven’t been quick to file complaints — usually due to a fear of endangering their chances for future employment. So the DOL has decided to step in for them with additional enforcement efforts.
 
As an example, officials in California have issued guidance letters to advise employers whether they are breaking the law. Oregon regulators unearthed numerous abuses and obtained back pay for unpaid interns who claim they were really employees in disguise.
 
In a nutshell, the DOL is saying:  If your company benefits from the work an intern does, the person must be paid.
 
The DOL’s established criteria:

1. To
be unpaid, an internship must be similar to the training provided in an academic or vocational setting. (workersxzcompxzkit)

2. Unpaid interns must not displace regular paid workers.

3. An employer must not receive an “immediate advantage” from an unpaid intern’s work.

 
Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers’ Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, manufacturing, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. He can be contacted at:   Robert_Elliott@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com or 860-553-6604.
 
Podcast/Webcast: Occupational Health Strategies
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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers' comp issues.
 
© 2010 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Employer Pays Back Wages for Overtime Rule Violations

An Ohio-based petroleum refinery has paid $969,182 in back wages to 173 workers after the Department of Labor accused the company of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime rules after switching the employees to a 12-hour shift.


The department alleged the violations began when the Husky Energy Corp. changed from 8-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts for some of its workers, resulting in alternating workweeks of 60 and 24 hours. According to the department, the company allegedly established an “adjusted” rate whereby all these hours were compensated at the same rate, instead of paying time and one-half an employee’s regular rate for the resulting overtime hours.


The company was also accused of failing to include a shift differential in overtime pay calculations. An employer is not required by law to provide a shift differential, but if one is paid, then it must be included as part of the employee’s regular rate of pay for purposes of computing overtime. (workersxzcompxzkit)


Husky Energy Corp. agreed to pay the $969,182 in back wages to its employees and to establish bona fide rates upon which time and one-half for overtime hours would be calculated in the future. The company also agreed to include the shift differentials in the regular rate for purposes of calculating overtime in the future.

 

Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers' Compensation costs, including airlines, health care, manufacturing, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. He can be contacted at: Robert_Elliott@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com or 860-553-6604.


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http://www.workerscompkit.com/gallagher/podcast/  Claim_Handling_Strategies/index.php 
 


Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers' comp issues.
 
©2010 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

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