Appalling Workers’ Conditions At Chinese Tile Firm Shock Minister

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Alois Vinga

DEPUTY minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Lovemore Matuke was Tuesday shocked when he came face-to-face with the deplorable working and living conditions of 1 500 workers at the Chinese-owned ceramic tile making company, Sunny Yi Feng.

Following recent media reports that workers at the factory were working under “slave conditions” Matuke, accompanied by senior officials from his ministry, the national labour body, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) made a surprise visit at the company where they came up against with the extremely adverse employee circumstances.

The deputy minister was shocked to learn that the workers were daily fed on a diet of cornmeal and cabbages. He immediately ordered Sunny Yi Feng management to improve the food quality of its employees.

Speaking to after the tour, Matuke said he had implored the Chinese company to urgently reform and respect the country’s labour laws.

“It is the expectation of the government that every employer without distinction should respect the laws of the land, and as a ministry, it is our duty to ensure the Labour Act is applied, respected and enforced without favour,” he said.

The deputy minister also ordered Sunny Yi Feng to allow its workers to take regular off-days, improve the general cleanliness of ablution facilities and install doors for the employees to have privacy when using the restrooms.

He also demanded that a specific time should be created for the workers’ lunchtime, and not for them to eat while working.

Matuke was also appalled by the fact that employees there were working without contracts and are never given pay slips to allow them to understand made made on their wages..

Additionally, the company was not observing Covid-19 regulations as the 1 500 strong workforce was not screened for the virus on a regular basis.

“The size of your workforce with 1 500 people is almost the size of a constituency. Covid-19 remains an issue and there is a need for everyone to stop at the gate and undergo screening because if your entire workforce gets infected the whole country will come to a standstill,” he said.

He added the company needs to set up a safety and health management department and establish a local clinic that attends to accidents and sick employees.