Zimbabwe: Workers secure management commitments on wages and working conditions

Workers of the Chinese-owned Sinohydro Corporation in Zimbabwe won a major victory when it persuaded the company to yield to their demands of a salary review, better working conditions and free transportation, among others.

This was after the company, which was contracted to construct Zimbabwe’s Hwange Thermal Power Station, finally sat down with workers on 16 October to avert a looming workers’ strike that could potentially delay the completion of the billion-dollar electricity expansion project.

Representatives from the management, Ministry of Energy and Power Development, the Zimbabwe Construction and Allied Trade Workers Union (ZCATWU) and the workers’ committee leadership attended the five-hour long crunch meeting.

It was reported that 90 percent of the labour force withdrew from the Stage 3, Unit 7 and 8 expansion project of the Hwange Thermal Power Station, as workers demanded the company to respond to their demands. The said project is part of government efforts to address the perilous electricity shortages bedeviling the country.

Addressing over a thousand workers who have gathered outside the company’s premises after the meeting, ZCATWU General Secretary Nicholas Mazarura said that the management has finally yielded to the workers’ demands, including paying them in US currency. Citing National Employment Council (NEC) rates, Mazarura said that the lowest paid worker in the project, a general hand which is the grade for most workers, takes home RTGS 89 (USD 0.96) per hour. 

“We engaged the management and they committed to sit in the negotiating table. At first, they said that they could not meet the workers’ demand for a US dollar wage, but after our insistence, they finally agreed,” Mazarura said.

Mazarura, however, said that the process would also require both governments of Zimbabwe and China to adjust the contract arrangement before workers could start receiving forex at the beginning of November.

“Let’s take note that this will involve a process for this arrangement to be implemented. The management has agreed to this, but they cannot do it alone with only our signatures. We want to make sure that in November you start to be paid in US dollars. The timeframe for this to happen now rests with us as we are supposed to sign an agreement. What is important to take note of is the management’s commitment,” said Mazarura, who addressing the crowd of workers. 

The trade union leader also noted that the company had agreed to provide transport to all the workers starting 26 October and improve meals by hiring a caterer. He also said that the management also committed to address the PPE issues, including replacing workers’ worn out safety shoes even before the end of three months.