Echo Of The Pen!!

By Lansana Fofanah

How Safe Are Sierra Leonean Workers In Chinese Companies?

The bilateral relationship between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Sierra Leone continues to flourish irrespective of which government or political party is in power. With both countries enjoying diplomatic and trade relations, Sierra Leone is considered a favorable investment destination for China who is in the race to dominate its global presence in Africa.

Today, China has successfully established companies like Gougi, the Chinese Railway Seventh Group, Kingho Mining Company to name but a few.

While those investments are being welcomed in the name of providing jobs and booming the economy, they have mostly turned out to be an opportunity for the Chinese to exploit our sisters and brothers.

One does not need a rocket scientist to know that Sierra Leoneans provide almost all the labor workforce in these companies without better incentives while the Chinese only do the observatory and monitoring roles.

A recent social media video footage that captured glaring moments between a Chinese and a Sierra Leonean worker at the CRSG Repair Shop exposed the lack of respect and safety concerns the Chinese people have for Sierra Leoneans who are nothing but mere slaves in their eyes.

After the ugly incident occurred, even though we are yet to see an official response from the Government of Sierra Leone, the Chinese Railway Seventh Group (CRSG), released a preliminary statement on the 8th June 2021 over the physical conflict which reflects nothing but the unfair stance of the company as they only presented the side of the Chinese national.

The statement indeed confirmed that the Sierra Leone Mining Association Liaison personnel and Safety Officer, employed by Kingho visited the CRSG Repair Shop to conduct safety training for workers, while at the same time downplayed the seriousness of the safety training that was meant to seek the well-being of the workers.

The issue of safety has never been a trivialized one for serious companies. But the utmost concern of CRSG according to the release was to see their work done irrespective of whatever happens.

It is worth noting that the Sierra Leone Local Content Agency was established in 2016 to protect the interest of indigenous workers and give them fair competition and whoever goes against the provisions of that act will strongly be resisted be it multinational companies or individuals.

The video in question captured the moment the Chinese national raised his hand and slapped the Sierra Leonean worker and also hit him with a stick which left the helpless Sierra Leonean with no option but to retaliate and defend himself as he would have been killed by the irate Chinese.

But according to the hog-wash press release, it was the Sierra Leonean guy that first assaulted the Chinese which the layman could find hard to believe.

The best way the company could help investigators to know the fact is to also provide their evidence through the numerous CCTV cameras installed in their facilities so that allege-distorted footage could be seen from theirs’.

For argument’s sake, let us assume the meeting was not necessary or the time for the meeting has eaten up their normal routine schedule, was slapping or putting up a fight against the Sierra Leonean the appropriate disciplinary action?.

This is not the first time allegations of ill-treatment of Sierra Leonean workers are coming up especially by the Chinese but nothing seems to be done to address those concerns.

It is not even a secret that there is a separate canteen meant for only Chinese workers in all the Chinese companies where Sierra Leoneans are not allowed to eat or go because they are considered inferior to them.

Whenever concerns of such occur, stakeholders only engage authorities behind closed doors without addressing those concerns which normally leads to re-occurrences.

While the majority of Sierra Leoneans are calling for the immediate deportation of the said Chinese, it is prudent that a prompt independent investigation is conducted that could prevent future occurrences of such actions.

News 24 newspaper