GOVERNMENT has been urged to urgently intervene and address the poor working conditions facing mine workers.
The call was made by the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) and Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Mineral Workers Union (ZDAMWU) in a joint statement on Thursday.
CNRG and ZDAMWU said working conditions for mine workers were disturbing, with many subjected to casual labour and unfair dismissals.
The organisations said there has been little focus on the crucial role mine workers play towards the attainment of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ambitious US$12 billion mining industry target.
“The vast array of laws in Zimbabwe that control the mining industry have so far fallen short of addressing the pressing problems mine workers face,” they said.
“The active participation of senior politicians and security elites in mining is also undermining the rights of workers by rendering laws and institutions ineffective.”
According to CNRG and ZDAMWU, hiring of casual labour was rampant in the sector, with employers running away from offering fixed employment contracts to avoid paying for obligations such as pension and medical aid.
“Companies are hiring workers on short-term contracts ranging from one month to three months. This denies the workers job security, pension, medical aid, right to join a trade union and participate in trade union activities,” the statement read.
“This employment practice intimidates and silences workers from demanding improved working conditions and their rights as enshrined in the country’s Labour Act and Constitution.”
They noted with concern the victimisation of mine workers for participating in trade unionism.
“This is a violation of section 65 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which clearly states that “every person has the right to form and join trade unions and employee or employer’s organisations of their choice, and to participate in the lawful activities of those unions and organisations,” they said.
CNRG and ZDAMWU said most workers were living in substandard accommodation with no proper ablution facilities.
“Often these dormitories are not gender sensitive — male and female employees are separated by the doors. There have been reports of sexual harassment due to these living conditions at the workplace. The accommodation set-up is not family-friendly for employees to bring their spouses.”
They said some mining companies have no occupational safety, health, and environmental standards which jeopardises the health and safety of employees.
“In Hwange, several workers have been seriously injured at work due to poor safety standards. At coking companies in Hwange, employees are using surgical masks instead of dust masks to protect themselves from coal dust,” they said.
“However, most of the workers wear standard work suits and overalls which do not adequately protect them from the heat. The situation in the villages where diamonds are mined is worse than it was before the diamonds were discovered. Infrastructure such as roads, clinics and schools are in an advanced state of dilapidation.” – (Newsday)