The pattern discerned through much of this chapter, of uneven responses, is also true of responses to HIV and AIDS, which has come to be seen as a core test of corporate social responsibility in the region. While this may seem to be a labour relations issue, since companies are usually responding to employees who are affected by the virus, it is usually seen as a CSR issue because some companies do offer support programmes for people beyond the workplace. Responses range from total indifference to signifi.cant concern expressed in elaborate policies and programmes. Most companies do see a need to respond.
At the unconcerned end of the spectrum, in Zambia, CCCM management sees no need for an HIV/AIDS workplace policy, insisting that Chinese staff are disciplined and do not indulge in extramarital affairs. This obviously implies that the health of local employees is of no interest. The perception that the Chinese are disciplined and do not engage in sexual activities with locals is not correct. In Luanshya, where LCM is mining, Chinese workers are dating young girls of 12 and 15 years old (they call them “Maria Maria”). A group of Chinese workers were arrested, only to be released after it was discovered that Zambian women were organizing these girls for the Chinese.
At the concerned end, in South Africa, Aquarius has HIV and AIDS policies and pro.grammes, developed in consultation with specialists and employee representatives, in place. Voluntary counselling and testing is available at all operations, while wellness programmes are available for HIV-positive employees and their dependants.
In Zimbabwe, ZIMASCO management acknowledged that HIV and AIDS are a na.tional health problem, and that the group has a duty to educate employees and their families so that they can prevent themselves and others from being infected. Conse.quently “top management endorses and supports the AIDS Awareness Programme and will make funds available to implement the policy accordingly.” (Interview with AF Chadhliwa, Capability Development Manager, ZIMASCO).
It was further stated that the group believes that it has a social responsibility to curb the epidemic and to support all Ministry of Health initiatives. According to the group, employees with AIDS (or any other life threatening illness) should be treated with dignity and respect. An atmosphere conducive to caring for and promoting the health of all employees should be created. In addition, prejudice and unwarranted fear should be reduced wherever possible.
As a policy, ‘employees with AIDS or any other life-threatening illness will be allowed to continue to work as long as they are able.”22 ZIMASCO’s stated policy on HIV/AIDS can be summed up as:
- The group physicians will determine suitability for work. Information entrusted to ZIMASCO physicians will be treated in a confidential manner, as outlined in the company policy on confidentiality.
- Employees are assured of complete confidentiality when seeking testing or counselling.
- HIV infection will not serve as a basis for any employment decision, provided there is no health or safety risk to the employee or other employees.
- HIV testing of employees or applicants will only take place on a voluntary basis or when required by internal standards, and such testing will be accompanied by proper pre- and post-test counselling.