ELIAS MAGINYA IN GWERU
The Zimbabwe Congress of trade Union (ZCTU) president, Peter Mutasa, will engage the Chinese Embassy over the continued ill-treatment of employees by the Chinese companies operating in Zimbabwe.
The trade union is also planning to launch an online campaign against the ill-treatment of workers.
The planned meeting comes after more than 30 workers at Sino Zimbabwe in Gweru were left stranded after the employer fled the mine following a confrontation over poor working conditions.
It is understood that workers have been subjected to long working hours, low salaries, unpaid leave and lack of safety wear, among other grievances.
Mutasa told Business Times that ZCTU initially approached the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.
But, the ministry has done nothing about it.
“We have been engaging the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, but they have done nothing about it in our view. They are becoming powerless,” Mutasa said.
He added: “In relation to the issue of Transtech Engineering (which was contracted by Sino Zimbabwe), we are going to lobby an online campaign against ill-treatment of workers so that the government, Chinese embassy and the world get to know.”
ZCTU has since written to the Chinese Embassy.
“In our [meeting] we will highlight the issue of salaries, workers are not getting the correct minimum salary, Chinese employers are improperly terminating contracts, and some are treating employers as animals and not human beings. We need the Chinese Embassy to know and to take a holistic approach, making sure that all their nationals abide by Zimbabwean labour laws,” part of the letter to the Chinese Embassy reads.
A worker at Sino Zimbabwe, who requested anonymity, told Business Times: “As workers, we had put down a number of complaints. These included underpayment, unpaid leave days, and working with no proper protective wear. We also had challenges of having Covid-19 protocols being performed by non-professionals. The supervisor himself conducted tests that did not go well with us. The time we downed tools, our employer then vanished leaving us stranded.”
The workers also complained that Covid-19 protocols, including tests, were not being handled by professionals.
“As if that was not enough, our supervisor gave us informal dismissal. Protesting unfair dismissal and unfair labour practices, we have decided to stay in camp until we are properly addressed,” the worker said.
Over the years, China has seen its influence on the Zimbabwean economy grow mainly with investments in mining and construction projects.
But, the companies are accused of ill-treating their workers. Last year, two employees were shot and injured by their Chinese employer after demanding their salaries and called on the government to intervene.