in DR Congo

Employees of the Somicongo REDD+ concession in the Democratic Republic of Congo have not been paid for 15 months

The Somicongo REDD+ concession in Mai Ndombe province, in the Democratic Republic of Congo was, until early 2018, a logging concession covering an area of almost 300,000 hectares. As Global Witness pointed out in a 2015 report about the logging industry in the DRC, the contract, management plan, and social agreement for the logging concession were unpublished or inaccessible – in breach of DRC’s legal framework.

Local communities were not consulted before the company changed from logging to REDD. An August 2018 article by EnviroNews reported that local communities hadn’t seen any REDD activities in the project area. Some wondered whether the company was granted the REDD concession in order to wiggle its way out of the communities’ claims under the social agreement for the logging concession.

In September and October 2018, local monitors trained by the Congolese NGO Action pour la promotion et protection des peoples et espèces menacés (APEM) visited the Somicongo REDD+ concession as part of a REDD monitoring mission in Mai Ndombe province.

But the data they collected in the concession was not included in their report because the NGO monitors found that the communities had been “pre-prepared” to give favourable views of the project. The supervisor of the Somicongo concession persuaded one of the monitors to make sure that the data reflected positively on the project, in order that “the World Bank would give funds to the society”.

REDD-Monitor recently obtained copies of two letters written by employees of the Somicongo REDD+ concession. After working on the project for 15 months, they have only received one month’s salary, for March 2018, and a back-to-school bonus of US$100 for department heads and US$50 for all of the other employees. The employees ask that they be paid their salaries.

The first letter was addressed to the Manager of Somicongo Forest Conservation, dated 4 July 2019. The second letter was sent to the Governor of Mai Ndombe province on 10 July 2019. The following is a Google translation of the letters (with apologies for the somewhat scrambled nature of the translation – but the situation is clear from the letters):

Inongo, 04/07/2019

Monsieur,

We staff the SOMICONGO Forest conservation Sarl (TOBATELE LIA REDD + project) hereby come to your high personage claiming those whose sidelines.

Indeed, since the launch of this project TOBATELE LIA REDD+ of SOMICONGO Forest Conservation Sarl which today more 15 months has passed without a contract of employment, we received only one month’s salary, that of March 2018 and a 2018-2019 back-to-school bonus of $100 for department heads and $50 for the rest of the staff.

After so many sacrifices, penalties and risks incurred aware of the merits of this project which is a factor of development of our province, brought our expertise, our capabilities and our energy and are always willing to put them at your disposal.

Went after claim of promises in promises that even happened that the Director of Operations swore in front of the employees that if you’re not paid in a few days amputate one of my fingers. All these promises are still unrealised and the last is that of 29 May 2019 at an official meeting held by the administrative officer; we reassuring the payment of at least 1 month of arrears of salary that will have to be paid before June 5, 2019 and 1 active month at the end of June.

Whenever we make a complaint, our spokesperson was sanctioned until his expulsion.

To show you the degree of our good will and support to this project, we agreed to work without transport, no computer tools put at our disposal for an efficient work.

We inform you that according to the code of labour that governs us it is asked to any employer to secure his employees, meaning that throughout this period the project has not even been able to have a medical subscription (a health centre) for assistance in caring for its employees; this has led to some cases of non-assistance including three serious cases listed below:

– Colleague MBOKUBA MOKOMO Jean Paul animator who had a stroke so much that his family had to sell a family plot to transfer him to Kinshasa for his care.

– Colleague Michel of the security that was intervened for a serious case of bilateral inguinal hernia.

-Collégue Ordon MPIAMBANGI attack by severe malaria neurological form to the point that he had to resort to his family who has recalled to Kinshasa for appropriate care.

In view of all these details, being all parents and managers with 15 months of unpaid and without any contract, imagine a little impact on the studies of children and our homes; while you are without ignoring that the labor code of 25/10/2002 in its article 99 stipulates that: “the payment of remuneration must be made at regular intervals not exceeding 1 month. Payment must be made no later than six days after the period to which it relates”. We kindly ask you to get involved personally in this problem and hope that in the next 48 hours we will win the case; in connection with our claims.

Please pay attention, Managing Director, accept the expression of our most distinguished feelings.

 

Inongo, 10/07/2019

Excellence,

We staff the SOMICONGO Forest conservation Sarl (TOBATELE LIA REDD + project) hereby come to your high personage claiming those whose sidelines.

Indeed, this TOBATELE LIA REDD+ project started its activities since February 2018. We sons and daughters of the province of Mai Ndombe seeing the interest and advantage that this project brought in the province of Mai Ndombe according to the stakes of the air for the protection and conservation of our forests, which contribute to the fight against the humanitarian scourges climate change and in line with the REDD+ environmental social standards of the DRC have put our energy, our expertise and our abilities at the service of this project for more than 15 months; had endured relentlessly; as thanks His Excellency, we only received one month’s salary at March 2018 and a 2018-2019 back-to-school bonus of $100 for department heads and $50 for the rest of the staff in August 2018.

We will make you notice Excellence, the patience that we endure to promises that never come to fruition, the last of which is the 29th of May 2019 when at an official meeting held by the office of the administration reassuring us the payment of at least 1 month of salary arrears that should be paid by June 20, 2019 and 1 active month at the end of June 2019. Having noted that after this last promise no explanation has been provided to us, we have made the decision to write to the Managing Director asking for the payment of our salary arrears, bonuses and signing of employment contract, letter of 04 July 2019 which we have reserved copy.

Go understand Excellence, that of all these steps taken following the emergencies we encounter in our homes, some of whom Inongo and others from elsewhere (schooling of children, medical care, rent payments …), steps that we deem noble, are subject to threats of dismissal, accused of betrayal, to have been manipulated. Can we say that a parent who has not had his salary for 15 months and who claims is handled? The salary we are asking for is not a favour but a right, not to mention that during this whole period the company never made us sign a contract.

In view of all these details, being parents and responsible, we decry this treatment with the very last energy, languishing in misery and demanding that we restore us to our rights.

Let us solicit your personal involvement as a father and guarantor of the province and ask for the following:

1. payment of our salary arrears and 15-month premium, in accordance with the legislation governing the employer and the employee confer labour code of 25 October 2002 in its article 99.

2. contract signature.

Please accept, His Excellency the Governor the expression of our most distinguished feelings.

 


PHOTO Credit: Logging concessions in Mai Ndombe province. The yellow coloured concessions were not being exploited in 2015.
 

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