Workers at Dinson Colliery in Hwange district have opted for dialogue with the management over their labour disputes after issuing a notice to strike two weeks ago.
The notice expired last week with management engaging the workers as it sort to avert a crippling strike.
The workers are demanding US dollar indexed salaries, adherence to worker safety standards including the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and to be allowed to form or join unions among other things.
Over 200 workers withdrew their labour by staging a sit-in outside the company’s premises after management continued to ignore their grievances.
The crippling job action forced management to promise to pay 35 percent of salaries in United States dollars beginning in March with the remaining balance in local currency.
This prompted the workers to return to work only to issue a 14-day notice to strike through the Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union (ZDAMWU).
However, in an interview with CITE, ZDAMWU secretary-general, Justice Chinhema said the company had engaged them to discuss the workers’ grievances.
“We were called by the labour office in Hwange for conciliation but when we went there the matter was postponed on the basis that number one the employer argued that the workers were rushing to strike without talking to them so they requested dialogue. We also requested that some issues needed clarification so we wanted to have Labour, NSSA and National Employment Council (NEC) to do inspection in loco so that we establish the allegations we are raising,” said Chinhema.
He some of the issues that had led to the postponement of negotiations they wanted to be established during the inspection in loco were around workers’ safety and grading.
“We realized that there are a lot of issues like safety which would need the Ministry of Mines, NEC and NSSA to be part of the inspection in loco. We also realized that they wanted NEC to do proper job evaluation and grading so the matter was postponed pending finalisation of these processes. So if our issues are not addressed then we will go into a strike.”
Chinhema blasted the company for tricking the workers into accepting a wage increase that was way below the National Employment Council (NEC) standards.
“That offer is illegal, it is against the NEC payment matrix. The NEC regulations say an employee in grade 1 has to be paid US$192 with the balance being paid in RTGS at interbank rate. So that agreement which they corruptly entered into with a few individuals and a paperbag union is an illegal agreement which goes against NEC terms.”
He said they were aware and disturbed by reports of the Chinese coking company intimidating and suspending workers without following procedure.
“Yes, some workers have been suspended and our position as we highlighted to management during the meeting at the labour office is that if they are for dialogue then they must lift the suspensions. Moreover, the suspensions are verbal and we are going to challenge them in court because we are saying the law requires a suspension to be in writing with allegations spelt out clearly. In this instance, people were just told to go home and nothing has been followed. This is the same position that we have been making that the Chinese don’t want to follow the law which is clear. When an employee is alleged to have committed an offence then the procedure of the code of conduct must be followed but they simply don’t want to do that,” he added.
The company which is located at Mpongola in Lukosi area under Change ward is a subsidiary of Afrochine which is owned by Chinese giant steelmaker, Tsingshan Holding Group. The group has a number of investments in the country which include the coking plant in Hwange, an iron ore mine in Mvuma as well as steel and nickel ferrochrome furnaces in Selous.
In Hwange, it has begun its second and third phases of coke oven battery construction which will expand the production of coke to one million tonnes per annum. More locals are expected to be employed by the expansion drive.