Health And Safety

Manganese poisoning sufferers face agonising wait for compensationBy Mziwakhe Hlangani

Brian Anderson, Thando Mbanjwa and many other manganese poisoning victims from Assmang, a factory in Cato Ridge near Pietermaritzbrg, may have to wait for two or more years to receive fair compensation.

The poisoning, a result of exposure to high quantities of toxic manganese dust, has already killed some workers and left others severely incapacitated.

Those affected were expecting an answer soon after fighting drawn-out dismissal cases after they were exposed to manganese fumes.

But an enquiry by the Department of Labour still drags on. This was instituted after the company management adopted an inadequate compensation system with limited payments for employees harmed on duty.

The Cato-Ridge based company has steadfastly refused to come into an agreement with Numsa around compensation of these affected employees.

Instead it has clung to its indemnity right in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injury and Diseases Act.

This prevents affected workers from claiming damages arising from employees contracting occupational diseases including manganism.

Assmang management has adopted a principled position to make good for the harm that their employees have suffered. But it has refused to accept blame for the situation.

The company has also maintained that it was under no obligation to pay an amount to all of its affected employees as the matter has to be settled on a principled basis.

If the Department of Labour decides to give the company and the union's legal representatives a further extension beyond December 3-7, 2007, and grant this case complexity status, it would mean that the manganese poisoning victims who are dying will only learn sometime next year or after their deaths, whether their families will get compensation for injury on duty. It is a serious blow to Anderson,

Mbanjwa and others who were hoping for lump sum compensation payments and to have their dismissals as a result of their sicknesses reversed, so they could concentrate on preparing their families for hard times.

Numsa's compensation proposalsNumsa's legal expert, Richard Spoor, has insisted that the employees and ex-employees who have been harmed by exposure to manganese in their workplace should be compensated to the full extent of their loss.

Compensation should be determined in accordance with common law and the statute law of the country.

Numsa also wants:* an independent panel with suitably qualified and experienced professionals. * one panel member to be nominated by employee representatives, the other by the company parties, with a chairperson elected through consensus by both parties.* the panel to determine whether an applicant has suffered an injury because of occupational exposure to manganese fumes.

Both parties should endorse an assessment procedure and confirmation of diagnosis on the degree of impairment and disability.

This should be linked to the amount of compensation payable to qualifying claimants.

A trust with limited life should be appointed where every employee or ex-employee who believes himself to have suffered an injury as a result of occupational exposure to manganese fumes should be entitled to make an application to the trust.

The proposed agreement says that dependants of breadwinners who have passed away and who believe that the death was linked to occupational exposure to managanese dust should also be entitled to make an application to the trust.

The trustees in return will be entitled to make an award in favour of successful applicants in the form of a lump sum or an endowment purchased on behalf of the applicant.

In so doing the trustees will look at the report of the medical panel, the disability assessment and assessment of loss or harm, as well as the circumstances of the applicant.

Simon Miya who was dismissed last year for incapacity after suffering dizzy spells and headaches, is disappointed that the case is not yet finalised.

He desperately looks forward to the day when the company is enforced by government to offer “a just and fair compensation” to the affected workers in order to care for their families.

Miya, a former foreman, fell near a burning furnace. He was later medically boarded after Numsa shop stewards followed up his case through private medical practitioners who declared him unfit to work due to advanced manganese toxicity.

Miya, is now disabled with a severely damaged nervous system at the age of 49. He has suffered a complete mental breakdown with short memory. Will the victims' proposals ever be approved by Assmang?

As Numsa News went to print, trade unions were negotiating with Assmang for a gratuity separate from a possible payout from COIDA.

Icala lase-Assmang liyadonsaAbasebenzi base-Assmang basalindele inqubekela phambili ngemizamo yabo yokuwina isinxephezelo sikashevu wemanganizi.

Uma ngabe Umnyango Wezemisebenzi uhlehlisela icala onyakeni ozayo, kungaba iminyaka emibili ngaphambi kokuba abasebenzi abathintekayo kanye nemindeni yabo banikezwe isinxephezelo.

I-Numsa ifuna ukuthi i-Assmang yenze ithimba lochwepheshe elizimele bese lihlola ukuthi ubani othintwe imanganizi nokuthi futhi benze itrasti lapho labo abathintekayo kushevu wemanganizi, kubandakanya nemindeni yabo, bezokwazi khona ukufaka izicelo kutrasti ukuze bathole usizo lwezimali.

Assmang-saak sleep voort Werkers by Assmang wag nog steeds vir vordering in hulle pogings om vergoeding te ontvang vir mangaanvergiftiging.

As die Departement van Arbeid die verhoor tot volgende jaar uitstel, kan dit twee jaar wees voor die betrokke werkers en hulle gesinne vergoeding toegestaan word.

Numsa wil hê dat Assmang ‘n onafhanklike paneel deskundiges moet aanstel om te bepaal wie deur mangaan geaffekteer is, en dat hulle ‘n trust stig waar diegene wat deur mangaanvergiftiging geaffekteer is, insluitend hulle families, om geldelike hulp kan aansoek doen.

Nyewe ya Assmang e ntse e tsamaya butle Basebetsi ba Assmang ba ntse ba emetse kgatelopele ya maiteko a bona a ho fenya ditlhapiso bakeng sa tjhefo ya manganese.

Ha Lefapha la Mesebetsi le ka busetsa nyewe morao hore e mamelwe selemong se tlang, e tla be e ele dilemo tse pedi pele basebetsi ba amehileng mmoho le ba malapa a bona ba fumana ditlhapiso.

Numsa e batla hore Assmang e hlome moifo wa ditsebi tse ikemetseng tse tla lekola hore ke man ya anngweng ke manganese le hore ba hlome terasete eo ho yona bohle ba anngweng ke tjhefo ya manganese, ho enyelletswa le ba malapa a bona, ba ese kopo teraseteng ya hore ba thuswe ka ditjhelete.


Numsa News