A Concern for Care? Chinese companies' HIV and AIDS Policies

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 significant concern expressed in elaborate policies and programmes.

Claude Kabemba's picture

Director of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW)

October 10th, 2012

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 significant 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 Luansha, where LCM is mining, Chinese workers are dating young girls of 12 and 15 years old (who they call “ 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 programmes, 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 national 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. Consequently “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.” 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.

About the author(s)

Claude Kabemba is the Director of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW). In 2006, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) asked him to spearhead the formation of SARW. He holds a PhD in International Relations (Political economy) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Thesis: Democratisation and the Political Economy of a Dysfunctional State: The Case of the Democratic Republic of Congo). Before joining SARW, he worked at the Human Sciences Research Council and the Electoral institute of Southern Africa as a Chief Research Manager and Research Manager respectively. He has also worked at the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Centre for Policy Studies as Policy Analyst. Dr. Kabemba’s main areas of research interest include: Political economy of Sub Saharan Africa with focus on Southern and Central Africa looking specifically on issues of democratization and governance, natural resources governance, election politics, citizen participation, conflicts, media, political parties, civil society and social policies. He has consulted for international organizations such Oxfam, UNHCR, The Norwegian People’s Aid, Electoral Commissions and the African Union. He has undertaken various evaluations related to the work of Electoral Commissions and civil society groups interventions in the electoral process in many African countries. He is regularly approached by both local and international media for comments on political and social issues on the continent. His publication record spans from books (as editor), book chapters, journal articles, monographs, research reports, and newspaper articles.

Contacts

  • 1 Hood Avenue/148 Jan Smuts; Rosebank, GP 2196; South Africa
  • T. +27 (0)11 587 5000
  • F. +27 (0)11 587 5099