DOZENS of workers at a Chinese coal mining company with claims in Hwange Friday reportedly took matters into their own hands, blocking management from entering the premises in protest over alleged exploitation and poor remuneration.
Chinese owned Zimberly Investment supplies coal to Zimbabwe Power Company and employs more than 200 workers.
On Friday, both day and night shift workers camped at the mine offices’ gate demanding that management improves their working conditions.
Angry workers who spoke said prior attempts to engage management in a civil manner elicited a hostile response from their bosses who fired workers’ committee representatives, Lovemore Mwinde and Calym Phiri.
Said a worker on condition of anonymity, “The National Employment Council in mining recently increased pay rates from $7 000 to $14 750 per month for the lowest paid, and from $16 235 to $34 210 per month for the highest paid grades.
“Part of the salary should be in United States dollars, the lowest paid supposed to earn US$95 and the highest getting US$222 per month.
“They refused to effect these rates and continued paying us $7 000 per month. This is what forced people to say enough is enough and confronted management today.”
Workers also claimed they were being forced by their employer to work up to 18 hours a day between 7am and midnight especially on weekends without being paid for overtime, night shift or dusty allowance and medical aid.
“It’s like they want us to die at work,” said another employee.
The workers also complained of compromised health and safety as they were not being provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) even for Covid-19.
They accused a mine foreman they identified as Themba Yowani, who has been nicknamed Njanji (steel) because of his no-nonsense stance against workers who complain.
“Each time we inquire about our salaries or any condition of service, they threaten to fire us. As we speak, we have no workers committee after they fired Lovemore Mwinde for complaining on our behalf.
“They have sowed seeds of division and workers no longer trust each other,” said another employee.
The workers have appealed to government and labour bodies to intervene.
Efforts to get a comment from Njanji, or mine manager only identified as Nic and the human resources manager Tendai Nyasha Mugabe were fruitless as their mobile phones were unreachable by the time of publication.
Zimberly Investments is one of the many Chinese mines fingered by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) for allegedly exposing workers to health hazards including Covid-19 by failing to provide proper safety health measures.
The company is also exploring the disused Liberation Mine in Gwayi where it intends to start mining activities.
Hardly a month ago, another Chinese company, Chilota Mine, was dragged to court by its workers who complained about exploitation.
About 200 workers have been at loggerheads with mine management over unpaid salaries dating a few years back and the matter spilled to the Labour Court which ruled in favour of the workers.
The company reneged on payment despite the court ruling and instead the management reported some workers for stealing a car and five were fined by police.
This comes as government is under fire from a cross section of citizens including communities and business, for willy-nilly parcelling out concessions to Chinese firms oblivious of human rights abuses at the hands of the Asian employers.
The latest has been the granting of mining claims to two Chinese companies to mine coal within the Hwange National Park without consultations with stakeholders or doing an Environmental Impact Assessment.