Chinese company, workers clash over US$ salaries



CHINESE-OWNED firm, Zimbabwe Zhongxin Coking Company (ZZCC) in Hwange is in the eye of a storm over its refusal to pay its workers in United States dollars.

The company is also being accused of reneging on its promise to pay workers for leave days.

Irate workers said they were concerned over the “arrogant conduct” of their Chinese employer and called on authorities to intervene and rescue them from exploitation.

“We are suffering at the hands of the Chinese in our own country,” said one of the employees who preferred anonymity.

“They are not paying us and in addition do not give us protective masks and clothing. We are given five disposable masks once after 15 days.

“They are not paying us overtime. Some of us have gone for seven years without getting pay leave. Some workers are given four gloves once after 15 days. The gloves expire in one day.”

The workers said they were being victimised for demanding their rights.

Zimbabwe Diamond Allied Minerals Workers Union secretary-general Justice Chinhema yesterday confirmed the standoff between the workers and their Chinese employer.

“ZZCC workers are earning
$22 000 and everyone is without proper grading. The law stipulates that they should get US$145 from the $22 000, with the balance paid using the auction rate in Zimbabwe dollars,” Chinhema said.

“If the employer is genuine in the payments, the US$145 should be paid using the prevailing Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe foreign currency auction rate because it’s stipulated that it must be in US dollars. ZZCC produces coking coal which is sold to Zambia, South Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo, thereby bringing in foreign currency.

“It’s so sad that besides poor salaries, workers at ZZCC work long hours and are paid on earn as you work basis (maricho). There is no system that recognises that mining industry workers work eight hours per shift and 26 shifts in a month,” he said. “If you don’t work, you are not paid. If you get sick, you are not paid.”

He added: “The Chinese don’t even recognise the labour laws of this country. Our biggest challenge is some within our own people who are paid by these people for protection.

“How can you be paid to suppress your own brothers? We also blame the investment laws. There must be a provision that compels these guys to commit to follow every law, failure which they get arrested and deported.”

In a letter dated May 2, ZZCC official Steve Li advised employees that the company had been affected by depressed markets, resulting in low sales.

“We kindly inform you that due to depressed markets and shortage of raw materials which results in low sales, as previously advised, at the moment it is not sustainable to offer salaries in US dollars,” he wrote.

“The company will abide by Zimbabwe dollar salaries as per NEC [National Employment Council] memo. However, we pray that the situation improves in the nearest future for the survival of both the employees and the company. We will continue to engage as

Yesterday, Li said: “If you check with all mining companies in Hwange, none of them are paying in US dollars. They all have stopped that. That is why we engaged NEC to advise the workers on this policy that it is not mandatory. We, however, are willing to negotiate.”

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