Chinese mine workers stage sit-in over poor salaries

By Tinashe Mungazi

Workers at Zhong Zhian Investments, a Chinese contractor hired by Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) to mine coal have reportedly gone on strike citing poor salaries.

The workers staged a sit-in starting yesterday and continued with the protest at Chaba mine offices demanding a salary increase. The Chinese company was contracted by Colliery to mine at its open cast pit two years ago following the unceremonious departure of Mota Engil.

The relationship between HCCL and the Portuguese conglomerate went sour after the former delayed settling its contractual obligations.

This saw the company engaging Zhong Zhian Investments as part of its efforts to turn around its fortunes after most of its equipment was grounded.

Under the agreement, the Chinese company is supposed to produce 100 000 tones of coal per month.

Sources told CITE that the workers were complaining over the low wages and demanding an increment citing a high cost of living.

A low income-earning urban family of six now requires approximately $41 235,93 to sustain its monetary needs per month, according to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe. This translates to US$490 per month.

“The workers staged a sit-in at Chaba yesterday complaining about low salaries. The high cost of living versus the salaries was no longer sustainable hence this action.”

A worker who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were demanding the lowest-paid wage of US150 or ZWL44000. The lowest-paid worker is currently earning ZWL20000.

“What we want is a standard living we are now wallowing in abject poverty. We demand decent salaries where we are saying the current earnings of ZWL20000 amount to a slave wage. We want the lowest worker to get US150 or ZWL44000. It’s now hand to mouth as we are earning far below the Poverty Datum Line. We have since registered our grievances with our employer but their continued lack of action has caused us to protest.”

It is understood that the company invited representatives from the National Employment Council (NEC) today to negotiate with the workers, however, details of the outcome of the meeting are still sketchy.

The development comes in the wake of similar unrest at another Chinese contractor working on Stage 7 and 8 expansion project at Hwange Thermal Power Station.

Workers at Sinohydro Corporation yesterday also downed tools accusing the company of going back on its pledge to pay them in United States dollars.

The industrial action by workers at both companies is seen as having the potential to affect the completion of the power project as well as affect the production of coal.

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