Displaying items by tag: Protest
Sri Lanka: Nearly 500 contract workers at two Holcim Lanka cement plants in the towns of Puttalam and Galle in Sri Lanka have been on strike since 19 May 2014 demanding job permanency, better wages and improved working conditions. The striking workers and their families are occupying the cement plant premises. The Inter Company Employees Union (ICEU) called the strike.
The protesters at the Puttalam plant have blocked the main gate, halting the transport of cement. The company and contractors are trying to break the picket with the help of Sri Lanka's president Mahinda Rajapaksa. The government is determined to end the strike and has deployed police and the riot squad. The police are threatening to arrest union leaders and activists.
On 1 June 2014 the striking contract workers and their families at the Puttalam and Galle plants were attacked by hired thugs with swords and clubs, allegedly organised by the local ruling party politicians. At the Puttalam plant nine people, including an eight year old girl, were injured and sent to hospital. Four are still hospitalised. Protestors asked for police protection, who were present during the attack, but their appeals were allegedly refused. At the Galle plant one protester was injured.
The mother of the eight year old girl who was injured said that her daughter had been thrown to the ground by the thugs. "I'm afraid for my husband, who has been working for eight years as a contract worker. That's why we joined the protest."
Holcim established its Sri Lankan operations after the privatisation of the state-owned Puttalam Cement Corporation in 1996 under former president Chandrika Kumaratunga. After Holcim took over, the workforce was cut from 1500 to less than 900, with only 370 permanent workers. Some of the contract workers have worked for the company for more than 20 years. Keeping workers on contract basis is a means employed to deny the rights they would have as permanent employees and to subject them to harsher working conditions.
Workers in the production and transport sections are employed on a 12 hour shift system. Their basic monthly wage is less than US$115. In the loading section, six workers have to load 4500 cement bags during a 12 hour shift with the assistance of a conveyor belt. The workers on 'general duties' work nine hour shifts and are on daily wages of US$16.02.
Holcim Lanka dominates has more than 40% of the local market. In the recent period, it has increased the price of a 50kg bag of cement several times and profits have soared, even after paying the government's increased taxes.
India: Hundreds of farmers who will be affected by a JP Associates cement plant that is under construction in Mangal village, Himachal Pradesh, have staged a protest outside of Arki Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM).
The villagers staged their protest over allegations that the cement plant has ruined Mangal village, with JP Associates allegedly having dumped waste in the area. They claim that this has caused massive devastation due to the subsequent run-off from the waste into neighbouring fields.
The Himachal Pradesh high court has passed an order to remove the offending waste and asked the district administration to comply with the order. The villagers have alleged that the district administration failed to force JP Associates to remove the waste that was dumped in the villages. Protesters hold little hope that JP Associates will comply, as successive governments have seldom forced it to in the past.
Nigeria: One worker was killed on 31 July 2013 at the Dangote Cement Gboko plant when he was hit by falling limestone, according to the All Africa Media Group. The deceased labourer, Solomon Ashir, was killed instantly.
Ashir was from the local community, which reacted angrily towards Dangote following his death. Many were of the opinion that health and safety measures at the plant had been deficient.
Bonfires were lit on the roads used to access the plant in the hope of trapping key staff members in the plant and Ashir's body was even carried into the office of the local Assistant General Manager (AGM) in charge of mines. He had fled the office in fear for his life before the protesters arrived.
Local media reported that Dangote representatives took the body to the local hospital after the protesters had vacated the office. Dangote's community relations manager could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, Benue State Police Public Relations Officer, Daniel Ezeala, confirmed that the incident had taken place and said that an investigation into the cause of the incident was underway.
Guatemala: Local press has indicated that Guatemalan residents are protesting against local cement manufacturer Cementos Progreso's plans to build a cement factory in San Juan Sacatepéquez, 30km north west of Guatemala City. Members of 12 local communities claim that they were not consulted prior to works commencing and they say that the cement plant will contaminate the local environment.
The cement factory will be built in the area to serve construction of a 24km highway known as the 'Anillo Regional' that will connect the departments of Guatemala, Quiché, Baja Verapaz and Chimaltenango. The highway is expected to cost US$19.2m and works are being carried out under a public-private partnership, in which Cementos Progreso is participating.
The Guatemalan president Otto Pérez inaugurated the start of construction works in May 2013 and defended the project, saying that it would bring development to the area, according to a presidential statement. "I want to ask the local population, which will benefit from the project, to help us and collaborate," said Pérez. The president also characterised claims that the highway will damage the environment, affect local farming and reduce water resources in the area as 'lies.'
Jordan: Local residents are protesting against the use of coal at Lafarge's Rashadiyeh cement plant in Jordan. Despite an agreement being reached on 27 May 2013 between the protesters and Tafileh Governor Hashem Suheim, the protesters blockaded the plant, leading police to intervene with tear gas.
According to the Jordan News Agency, Petra, protestors have demanded that an alternative fuel be used to operate the Rashadiyeh cement plant, as the coal or petcoke used has a serious impact on the health of workers and the surrounding environment.
The Rashadiyeh cement factory was established in 1983 by the Southern Cement Company. In 1985 this was merged with the Jordan Cement Factories Company, which was subsequently privatised and bought by Lafarge.
Egypt: Suez Cement, Egypt's biggest cement maker by market value, has said that a lack of fuel supplies had forced it to cut production by as much as 30% so far in 2013. Two years of political upheaval have brought chaos to Egypt's economy and a lack of state funds and foreign currency is now disrupting imports of vital energy supplies.
"A lack of fuel supplies has cut our annual production of 12Mt/yr by 20-30% since the start of the year," said Mohamed Shanan, director of business development at Suez Cement, a subsidiary of Italy's Italcementi. "Any increase in (fuel) prices must be matched by an increase in cement prices," he told local press. He highlighted that fuel costs had doubled in the past three year while cement prices have grown by just 30%.
Long queues at petrol stations, protests at cooking gas shortages and ever more frequent power cuts point to a gathering fuel crisis in the North African country. Energy accounts for around half the cost of producing cement in Egypt.
Nigeria: The people of Benue State have protested against the continued closure of Dangote Cement's Gboko plant. The plant has been temporary shut down as a result of an alleged cement 'glut,' which cement producers say is being caused by massive cement imports.
A statement from Dangote Group said that the chairman, Gboko Local Government, Nahan Zinda decried the continued closure of the Dangote plant, saying that his local government is losing vast sums of revenue and that the closure was having knock-on effects in other areas of the economy, including trading stalls outside the factory. Zinda called on the federal government to expedite action by doing all it takes for the factory to reopen.
"Since the company was closed, cement prices have risen," said Zinda. "Our people have been jobless and suffering. It may also lead to anti-social behaviours. Our women, who have petty businesses outside the gate, are also complaining bitterly," he said.
Grace John, who spoke on behalf of women traders in Gboko, said that social and commercial activities have virtually come to a halt and that life was becoming difficult. She appealed for the quick reopening of the plant in the interest of women traders.
Benue State Commissioner of Finance Conrad Werbga said, "Importation impacts negatively on the economy. It causes lots of ripples. It comes with attendant negative consequences for our nation. The federal government must do all it could to reverse the trend."
All parties will be keen to keep disruption caused by the plant closure to a minimum. On 17 August 2011, a dispute between a trader and cement plant worker rapidly escalated to a full-scale riot, with 20 deaths and widespread looting in Gboko.
Zambia: Cement production has stopped at Zambezi Portland Cement in Ndola due to a dispute over the company's shareholder structure, according to The Times of Zambia newspaper.
A senior source at the cement producer said that management officials were locked out of the plant on 24 December 2012. He added that the halt in operations was due to ongoing issues regarding the ownership of Zambezi Portland Cement. Further checks by the newspaper revealed that the plant is surrounded by security personnel. Zambia Portland Cement has a production capacity of 1300t/day.
Bhutan/India: On-going civil unrest in the Indian state of Assam is delaying the construction of a US$173m plant being built in Chengkari in south-east Bhutan. The project is facing delays partly due to disorder in Assam that has impacted upon its supply channels.
In addition, a severe shortage of Indian rupees in Bhutan, due to a rise in aggregate demand for the currency and limited supply, has had an impact on the project as most of the materials for the projects are sourced from India. The Indian government is providing US$54.6m towards the project in financial support. The project is expected to commence operation in May 2013, which if met, would represent a delay of nearly 15 months. Clinker production is expected to commence soon.
The project is being implemented by Dungsam Cement Corporation Limited, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Druk Holding and Investments, an investment arm of the Royal Government of Bhutan. The plant will have production capacity of 1Mt/yr for clinker and 1.36Mt/yr for cement.
Egypt: Ezzeldin Abu Awad, head of the Cement Traders Society, has said that the current strikes and protests in Egypt have decreased cement production by about 50%.
In comments to the Al-Ahram newspaper he added that the actual demand for cement under the infrastructure project agreements between the Egyptian government and construction firms stands at only 40%. Abu Awad attributed suspended sales to speculations on the Egyptian Exchange (EGX) due to the current political tension.
Elsewhere in the Egyptian industry, Sinai Cement disclosed to the EGX that a rocket propelled grenade attack on 27 November 2012 that was attributed to one of its factories actually hit the Sinai White Cement Company not Sinai Cement's factory.