By Judith Sibanda
Hwange, March 03, 2016 – HWANGE Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) has been hit by an exodus of employees with claims the struggling coal miner was now rejecting further resignation requests those from some of its remaining employees.
HCCL owes workers over $20 million in salaries that accumulated in the past three years.
Some workers who spoke to RadioVOP said they had suffered a lot yet management was doing nothing to assure them things would change for the better.
“Honestly there is no joy here,” said Sipho Gumede, an underground miner.
“It has been a very tough journey for us, imagine getting underground on an empty stomach and get nothing in return.
“Some of our colleagues have even died without their salaries and nothing is being done and the management does not communicate with us, they only feed themselves at the top.”
Another worker, Simon Shoko claimed management had been turning down skilled employees from resigning fearing a brain drain.
“The number of people who handed in their resignation letters has risen to 70 since the year began and this has led to the management refusing to sanction the requests,” he said.
“Most of the employees who are resigning are from the immovable department hence the fears but we can no longer continue like this.
“We want to leave and start looking for jobs elsewhere.
“I have been here for more than 25 years and there is nothing I can show for it.
“The management and the workers’ committee had told us that we will be paid just one month’s salaries before last year’s festive season but nothing like that happened.”
One Beatrice Ncube said she had since transferred her children to rural schools after her husband who used to work for HCCL died.
“The situation is so bad, like now schools just opened and all my three children had to transfer to another school because I was failing to make ends meet after the death of my husband,” she said.
“We were evicted from the company house and the money has not yet come. No one even talks about the solution.”
HCCL managing director Thomas Makore admitted that the colliery was failing to pay its employees, but said claims that it was refusing to accept resignation letters from fed up workers were not true.
“It is not correct that the company’s management is standing in employees’ way when they want to resign,” Makore said in an emailed response to questions from RadioVOP.
“We believe in freedom of contract where both the company and the employee are equal contracting parties.
“An employee is free to choose an employer of his or her choice. In any event, resignation is an act entirely dependent on the employee.
“A resignation does not depend upon the company approving the resignation.
“The company may not stand in the way of an employee who wants to resign.
“The statistics best answer this question as the company has a total workforce of 2 600 employees.
“There have been a few resignations, which cannot be taken as huge.”
He said the company was working on a turnaround strategy that will see it pay employees their outstanding salaries if it was successful.
“The company has fallen behind on salary payments and the situation needs to be dealt with,” Makore said.
“Management has initiated mitigation measures to ensure business continuity and sustainability.
“The collapse of global commodity prices and subdued capacity utilisation of our manufacturing industry have resulted in lower demand of our coal.
“The company lost major customers following the closure of Zisco and Zimasco, to name a few.
“While revenues shrunk, the cost structure of the company did not reduce as the company employed measures to avoid retrenchments.”
Makore said management appreciated the difficulties employees were facing.
“However, the company has now come up with a turnaround strategy which, once implemented as planned, normal salary payments will be effected,” he said.
“We appreciate the predicament of all employees but the focus to pay employees salary arrears and obligations will be an integral part of the turnaround strategies.”
The Zimbabwe government holds a major stake in HCCL and has, since last year, been giving Makore’s management ultimatums to turnaround the fortunes of the coalminer.
Workers blame management for the near collapse of the company, saying corruption has been allowed to take root.