Abera, thirty years old youngster working as a day laborer in a building construction company, has come from Estie Woreda, South Gonder Zone, Amhara Region. He everyday transports cement, stone and other construction raw materials up and down high rise buildings under construction.
“I have several times suffered from serious workplace accidents,” Abera said while trying to show the big scar found on his right back.
“Once while I was transporting stone to the second floor of building, the old scaffold, which I was walking on, broken down and let me fall down to the ground, where there were stones and pieces of wood…”
In all over Ethiopia, millions of daily laborers work in big constrictions in un-safe working environment and without supportive and protective equipments. They don’t have protective cap, hand glob, eye glass, working cloth, shoes and so on. They work on high rise buildings standing on old and inclined wooden scaffolds and ladders, they even transport heavy construction materials on them. Moreover, the constructions do not have safety nets and restraint and fall arrest systems. As a result, like Tessema a dozen of daily laborers get different serious injuries. Many, in fact, lose their life.
In a recent scaffold collapse accident I witnessed in Bahir Dar city, the capital of Amhara Region, for instance, 18 young women daily laborers have died, while many others have seriously injured.
Like many other women daily laborers, Aster, who I found in one construction site, work dressing her regular traditional cloth that is even challenging to walk on a flat ground.
“Eight months ago,” Astier said, “while I was transporting cement, my dress tackled my leg and I fell down from the first floor of the building to the ground and got serious injury. …If I had been from the fourth floor of the building, I would have died…”
Surprisingly, although Abera and Aster sustained the accidents while they were on duty, they did not receive any compensation from their employers. Even, their medical bills were not covered.
“I didn’t know about the right to claim for such kind of benefits, this is why I didn’t claim…” Abera said.
The right of labor is declared with detail obligations of employers in the ‘Ethiopian Labor Proclamation No 377- 2003’. The proclamation explains that an employer must take appropriate steps ranging from instructing or notifying employees concerning the hazards of their respective occupations to provide workers with protective tools, clothing and other safety equipment. It also requires employers to pay the full salary of an employee for three months from the date of injury, 75pc for the next three months after that, and 50pc for the next six months.
But, unfortunately, this legal document, according to the existing working environment and situation of daily laborers, seems to have been just a bookshelf decoration of the Ministry of Social and Labor Affair, justice bodies, and construction companies.
According to the 2009 Audit Report of the International Labour Office, a lack of recognition amongst the judges of inspectors’ right to take legal proceedings and low level of fines for Labor law contraventions are the reasons for the poor enforcement of the law.
By Betre Yacob