National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and Dete Refractories workers are being subjected to unhealthy working conditions including being exposed to dangerous wild animals. It also emerged that some of the brick workers were being paid in form of tiles and bricks. Presenting the second report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare on the working conditions at the Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL), NRZ and Dete Refractories, the committee’s chairperson, Cde Goodluck Kwaramba (Proportional Representation), said some of the violations included exposing workers to lions and elephants and salary arrears without any indicative dates of payment.
Workers were threatened with expulsion if they enquired about their pay.
In Dete, management has been accused of bullying workers using abusive language against subordinates with one Mr Zivanai being at the centre of the storm, while at Hwange Colliery workers salaries were not consistent. HCCL’s 3 000 employees were in 25 months salary arrears amounting to $45 million, while 5 805 NRZ employees were in 11 months’ salary arrears amounting to $78,9 million.
“The relationships between workers and management of the three companies were characterised by mistrust which compromised productivity. There was generally low workers morale due to non-settlement of salary arrears without any prospect of payment in sight,” reads the committee’s report.
“Workers and their families could no longer lead decent lives due to irregular payment of salaries. Employees of Dete Refractories and NRZ were exposed to unhealthy working conditions due to lack of protective clothing. The subcontracting of work at HCCL lacked transparency.”
“NRZ manually controlled trains and diesel locomotives should be maintained. At the time of the committee’s visit, the management of HCCL had failed to organise works council meetings for three years, which is a violation of Section 25A (5) of the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01) which entitles a works council to be consulted by the employer on operations of the organisation.”
The committee called on HCCL, NRZ and Dete Refractories to devise innovative ways of improving business and implement reasonable steps towards settlement of salary arrears in order to boost employees’ morale and ultimately, productivity by August 2016.
The committee recommended that Government should conduct an inquiry into working conditions at Dete Refractories and that the management of HCCL should comply with Section 25 A of the Labour Act.
HCCL was also ordered to organise monthly works council meetings while Dete Refractories was ordered to stop paying workers’ salaries with tiles and bricks.