By Staff Reporter
A LOCAL mine workers’ union has written to Fools Mine outside Bulawayo urging the under-fire Chinese employer to improve its bad relations with employees.
The National Union of Mines Quarrying, Iron and Steel Workers of Zimbabwe (NUMQISWZ) Thursday wrote to the miner urging management there to improve the situation.
This comes as the National Peace and Recreation Commission last week said it was also investigating allegations of beatings on employees by company director Zhang Zhongyi who is 61.
Zhongyi allegedly assaulted two of his employees at the company premises after they confronted management over their outstanding wages.
He was arrested for assaulting Tatenda Mangena and Costan Mhasa and is out on $3 000 bail.
Zhongyi has since been ordered by a Bulawayo magistrate to leave the country after immigration authorities traced his status and discovered he remained in the country illegally after his permit expired.
NUMQISWZ legal education and training officer Shadreck Pelewelo said workers have been forced to work without protective clothing since the inception of the mine.
“The workers were asked to buy their own safety clothing. Some go underground without helmets.
“To make it even worse, when electricity goes, the mine workers sometimes spend two days underground until the electricity is restored.
“It is very risky and worse than the artisanal mines situation,” Pelewelo said.
He added, “We want to put a stop to this. We have written to them and gave the deadline for them to respond as last week on Friday, but they have not responded or bought safety clothing for the workers.
“In terms of section 104, subsection 4 of the Labour Act, workers can go on industrial action without notice based on the dangers they face in their working environment.”
Pelewelo said the union will inform the mines ministry and advise members to start industrial action.
Union regional officer Abraham Kavalanjila also said the workers were at risk of contracting Covid-19 as management ignored calls to provide PPEs and sanitisers.
However, mine manager Thabani Masuku admitted the company was currently having PPE challenges but said they were engaging suppliers.
“Yes, there is a challenge, but we are engaging some suppliers to provide PPEs. We however have sanitisers and temperature checking is available,” he said.
Masuku could not be drawn into further comment on the issue of safety clothing such as helmets, gumboots and the issue of workers spending a long time underground after electricity cuts.
“Yes, we received the communication from the union and we are going to respond soon,” he said.
A group of civic society organisations last week petitioned the country’s independent commissions to probe rampant abuses at the mine.