Relief as new shareholder pays Zisco workers

Workers at Ziscosteel are anticipating a big financial relief after soon-to-be-major shareholder Indian steel giant Essar Africa Holdings promised them a doubled one-month salary payout in cash on Thursday.

The workers, who have gone for almost a year without salaries and wages, were promised a month’s salary by last week but logistical problems are said to have slowed down the process.

“Workers are expecting to be paid from Thursday this week. We should have got the money last week but there were some problems in converting the money from US dollars to South African rands since we are paid in rands,” said Edward Nyirongo, chairman of the Iron and Steel Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe.

He said the pledge was made by Essar Holdings management at a meeting held at Ziscosteel on April 28. The meeting was also attended by Ziscosteel chairman Nyasha Makuvise.

National Engineering Workers’ Union (Newu) chairman Tonderai Zisengwe, who leads workers from Lancashire Steel, a subsidiary of Ziscosteel, also confirmed that the Essar CEO had met with the workers and promised they would get a month’s salary with a 100% increment.

“There was a meeting at Ziscosteel on April 28 where Essar told us that they were yet to release funding for operations and salaries for Ziscosteel and its companies since they were still conducting a due diligence exercise.

The CEO, however, promised to pay out a month’s salary with a 100% increment before paying the outstanding salaries once the deal was finalised,” said Zisengwe.

Attempts to get comment from Ziscosteel CEO Alois Gowo were fruitless as he was continuously engaged in meetings. He is however on record as saying the salary issue was a sensitive matter which was “receiving due attention”.

Newu has been on the aggressive side when demanding salaries from the beleaguered steel-making giant, having taken Lancashire Steel to court over a $291 473 salary and wages bill.

Zisengwe won the battle and got a court order to attach company property to settle the debt.

However, Lancashire got a High Court reprieve after property attached was saved from the hammer to allow the Essar deal to sail through.

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