Plight of mine workers worsens: Union

Zdamwu secretary-general, Justice Chinhema said the situation is set to worsen this year following the introduction of new government taxes.

THE Zimbabwe Diamond Allied and Minerals Workers Union (Zdamwu) says the plight of the country’s mine workers continues to worsen as some big mining firms shut down operations, while others downsize.

Zdamwu secretary-general, Justice Chinhema said the situation is set to worsen this year following the introduction of new government taxes.

“In 2023, mine workers endured a nightmarish year,” he said in a statement yesterday.

“While some enjoyed festivities associated with Christmas, for some mine workers it was a miserable season devoid of any festivity as they endured a bleak festive holiday, which was mainly due to non-payment of December salaries, and non-existent bonuses.

“This was a difficult year whereby the majority of mine workers continued to earn poverty wages, despite them being the backbone of our economy and a vital cog in the economic development and transformation matrix.”

Chinhema said last year was characterised by underpayment of salaries, employers failing to timeously pay salaries and the majority of mine workers earning below the poverty datum line.

Further, some employers in the industry failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment for their employees.

“Job security for mine workers remained an issue, where workers were not only subjected to short term fixed contracts, but also long working hours,” he said.

“Workers' salaries continue to shrink, the value of the USD (United States dollar) is being eroded and they are being robbed of their hard earned income through heavy taxes, high bank charges and illegal unjustified deductions by some unscrupulous employers.

“The plight of mine workers continues to worsen. Zdamwu is concerned with hardships being faced by workers at big mining corporations such as RioZim, Cam & Motor Mine in Kadoma, Renco Mine in Masvingo, Murowa Diamonds in Zvishavane and the closed Dalyn Mine in Chakari and Empress Nickel Refinery who are earning staggered salaries month in and month out with no solution in sight,” he further pointed out.

The secretary-general also expressed concern over 1 000 workers of the closed Vumbachikwe Mine in Gwanda, Matabeleland South, who might all be jobless if action to protect the mine from collapsing is not taken soon.

He said workers were last paid in September 2022 and their wages are accumulating while they are seated at home with no sign that the mine will reopen any time soon.

“Equally, we are worried with the situation prevailing at closed operations such as Mbada Diamonds, Shabani Mashava, DTZ- Ozegio, Makomo Resources and recently Zhong Jian where workers are yet to be paid their terminal benefits so that they can have closure on their empowerment with these companies and start a new life,” he said.

Chinhema hoped that the coming in of the Labour Amendment Act is going to bring relief for mine workers, especially in the area of dispute resolution process.

He said the country has seen the emergence of unscrupulous and corrupt investors who use “dirty money” to corrupt systems so as to operate below standards for profits without considering the safety or health and plight of workers.

“The union has been dealing with these issues and they are at various stages of litigation and in some cases engagement,” he said.

Going forward, he said the demand for a minimum living wage of US$600 will be top of their 2024 work agenda as a union “until mine workers across all mines and districts achieve this demand.”

“These will leapfrog the workers' transformation and community development for sustainable socio-economic development of mining communities at large,” he said.

“Failure is not an option and if the works' council fails, we will be pursuing the demand as a dispute of interest through an arbitration process in terms of the law.

He urged the government to consult and involve workers and mining communities on policies that directly affect their welfare and interests in such areas as safety, health and formalisation of artisanal and small-scale mining.

“We need policies that promote and protect labour rights and community rights regardless who the employer is,” he added.

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