Chinese Sino Hydro Workers In Hwange Strike Over Low Salaries, Abuse

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By Matabeleland North Correspondent

HWANGE: Hundreds of workers at Unit 7 and 8 US$1,5 billion expansion project have downed tools accusing the Chinese company, Sino Hydro of violating labour laws by underpaying, victimizing, or firing disgruntled workers.

The workers also want to be paid their salaries in US dollars, which is what Chinese nationals working at the power station, and doing the same work are getting.

Sino Hydro is undertaking the multi-billion dollar expansion project of the ZESA Hwange Power Station.

However, for the whole of this week, workers at the power station after downing tools Tuesday.

They accuse their employer of underpaying and ill-treating them.

On Wednesday, the management called anti-riot police to the power station, but the workers remained calm at the main gate where they are staging their strike.

This forced the police to leave without making any arrests or dispersing the workers.

“We decided enough is enough and none of us has entered the gate from Tuesday. Everyone camped at the gate and management called the police, but we remained calm
because our motive is not violence but to have our concerns heard,” one of the striking workers told Friday.

“We have raised the issues of underpayment several times but no one cares to listen. Instead, they have fired some accusing them of plotting the strike. As we speak, people are scared but we have said it’s better now that they learn the hard way,” he added.

The workers claim they have not been getting their payslips for several months now, and believe this is meant to make sure there is no record of underpayment.

According to sources the workers’ committee and Sino Hydro management have been locked in numerous meetings this week with no breakthrough.

“The meetings have yielded nothing so far. They want people to go back to work but we want a guarantee and assurance that we will get our money and not get victimised.

“People employed by ZESA are paid handsomely, but us we get peanuts yet it is the same project,” said another worker.

Efforts to get a comment from the Sino Hydro management were fruitless.

Sino Hydro has a joint venture with the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC). ZPC is an investment vehicle and subsidiary of ZESA Holdings, which owns, operates, and maintains power generation stations for the supply of electricity in Zimbabwe.

ZPC currently operates four coal fired power stations in Hwange, Bulawayo, Munyati in Kwekwe, Harare thermal power stations and the Kariba South hydropower station.

The strike by Sino Hydro workers is likely to derail the progress of the project, which is already behind schedule by a year.

In 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa presided over groundbreaking for the expansion of Unit 7 and 8 before
construction work started in August of the same year.

Unit 7 should have been up by now with Unit 8 expected to run early next year, but both missed deadlines.

The project is less than 70 percent complete.