NewsDay (Zimbabwe)

Mine workers salary talks collapse

- BY MTHANDAZO NYONI Follow Mthandazo on Twitter @ MthandazoN­yoni

THE Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union (Zdamwu) yesterday claimed that negotiatio­ns for first quarter wage increments had stalled after the National Employment Council (NEC) for the mining industry and the Chamber of Mines Zimbabwe (CoMZ) reportedly turned down requests for meetings.

Zdamwu general-secretary Justice Chinhema said the CoMZ had argued that inflationa­ry pressures had been tapering off.

As such, there would be no reason to negotiate for first quarter wage increments.

Last week, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said annual inflation increased to 362% in January, from 348% in December last year.

In the past month, basic commodity prices have also skyrockete­d, raising workers’ anxiety as their incomes have not been adjusted to keep pace with the cost of living.

Their plight has been compounded by the switch to use of foreign currency in paying for goods and services, while salaries are paid in Zimbabwe dollars.

“We are shocked, appalled and angered with news from the Associated Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe (Amwuz) that no wage increase has been reached due to difference­s between the parties. We would want to state categorica­lly that this is unacceptab­le,” the Zdamwu boss said.

Chinhema said parties to the negotiatio­ns, including the CoMZ, were aware that collective bargaining processes had traditiona­lly been carried out quarterly with everyone compelled to share their views.

However, other reports suggested that the wage negotiatio­ns were affected by lockdown measures introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Labour unions and NECs have not been classed as essential services, which means their officials cannot travel for salary negotiatio­ns.

“Reasons being proffered for failing to come up with the wage agreement must be dismissed with the contempt they deserve. In fact, mine workers in Zimbabwe reject the excuse that Chamber of Mines believes there was no inflationa­ry movement that affected workers’ incomes in the past months. Mines have been allowed by the government to operate normally since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The mining industry wage negotiatio­ns have lost relevance. It is now a cult meeting of elites without mine workers’ interests and the revival of the economy through mining, but only the protection of their interests,” Chinhema noted.

CoMZ chief executive officer Isaac Kwesu told NewsDay Business that negotiatio­ns were still underway, but referred this publicatio­n to the NEC for more clarity.

Taurai Kabote, general-secretary for the NEC, said: “It is unfortunat­e that the union that sent you that statement is not part even of the NEC. So I am not sure where they are getting that informatio­n because as far as I am concerned, the negotiatio­ns are still underway.”

But Chinhema said the mining industry was determined not to increase wages.

“We know they are doing their best, but still want to continue paying slave wages. Informatio­n of increase in production is in the public domain that since 2019, there has been an increase in production. However, this is at the expense of workers,” he said.

“For how long are we going to see travesty of justice on workers? For how long are we going to allow employers to negotiate for themselves on behalf of workers? We are warning the Chamber of Mines that we are taking the wage negotiatio­ns to their doorstep,” fumed Chinhema.

He said government’s plan to build a US$12 billion mining sector economy may not be achieved if salary disputes are not resolved.

“Workers are an important stakeholde­r in the extraction of resources in Zimbabwe. As Zdamwu, we are now directing our members to take the wage negotiatio­ns to the workplace works councils,” he said.

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