More than 1 000 Bindura Nickel Corporation (BNC) employees are still waiting for a determination on their retrenchment package four years after the exercise was first mooted leaving most of them to live as destitutes.
Efforts to retrench 2 700 employees in 2009 stalled after the Labour ministry ordered affected employees to be paid a combined $15 million, which at the time BNC argued was too high and therefore could not be implemented.
Last year BNC management and employees tried to restart the process, but again failed after reaching a deadlock and referred the issue to the retrenchment board, which to date has not come back to the parties.
Associated Mine Workers of Zimbabwe president Tinago Ruzive said the BNC retrenchment exercise had taken longer than expected. He said the retrenchment board had not done anything to assist workers since October last year.
“The workers are at the company premises,” said Ruzive. “They are struggling with their families.”
Ruzive said employees in grade one (lowest paid) were receiving $50 per month before deductions. After deductions employees are said to be taking home $34.
He said since 2009 many workers had died and no terminal benefits had been paid to the employees’ relatives.
Ruzive added despite all this BNC every Friday carries on a routine head count on the employees in which absence results in dismissal. Said BNC employee representative Francis Muvhevhi: “For the past three years we have had many disputes. Up to now issues are still pending.”
BNC managing director David Murangari said efforts to revive the process in October last year failed after the company and employees failed to reach an agreement.
“Both parties are still waiting for the determination from the ministry. There is no determination from the Ministry of Labour and there is no basis to pay any package,” said Murangari.
He said the company received a $10 million loan advance from Mwana Africa to enable it to preserve assets as BNC did not have any money.
Murangari said they were giving the employees 50% of the 2009 National Employment Council minimum wages. He however could not divulge the exact amounts.
“This is what the company can afford and in addition to this the employees get free accommodation, water, electricity and access to mine clinics, ” he said.
BNC said it had 2 100 employees on its payroll at the moment and plans to retrench 1 055 employees and leave the balance for the Trojan restart, care and maintenance for Shangani and Bindura smelter and refinery.
Murangari said BNC is still on care and maintenance adding there was no production taking place.
“The whole idea is to keep the integrity of the assets so that when funding is raised the operations can be brought back to production as quickly as possible,” said Murangari.
Efforts to reach Labour minister Pauline Mpariwa were fruitless as she was unreachable on her phone.