By Criswell Chisango
Kariba, October 28, 2013 – Police over the weekend interrogated a Kapenta Workers Union, (KWU), representative in the resort town of Kariba following a two-day protest demanding improved working conditions.
KWU deputy secretary-general Gerald Chimurewo was picked up by three police officers on Sunday who questioned him why his union had staged a demonstration in protest over slave wages being paid by their employers.
Chimurewo was quizzed in the afternoon and later released without any charges laid against him.
“Three police officers wanted to know why we had resorted to demonstration although we had notified all responsible authorities before we staged the demonstration on Saturday. The response from the disgruntled workers was positive as they are not happy with the way they are being ill-treated by some of our employers’’ said Chimurewo.
Rodgers Madyara, the union’s secretary general confirmed that the police were misinformed by some employers that the strike was illegal.
“’We ironed out the differences with the police who were misinformed. Our strike will go ahead as we seek negotiations over the grievances we have against the employers’’ said Madyara.
The workers made their demands to the National Employment Council for the Agricultural Industry of Zimbabwe under which they fall. They are calling for improved working conditions claiming they are still regarded as farm workers.
“We want better wages as our members are earning as farm workers when they are living in a town. The schedule has the lowest grade earning $120 only. Of late the employers were paying commissions as little as 10 cents per kilogram than wages and this is affecting our working conditions. Some of our members have outstanding back pay dating to several years, and they are working for 17 hours daily although it should be 8 hours. There are no allowances, terminal benefits as well as leave days as they are on fixed monthly contacts that resembles slavery attitude on workers’’ he added.
However, Kariba Kapenta Producers Association chairman Norbert Mapfumo denied that all fishermen were affected by the poor remuneration and participated in the demonstration.
“My workers and some from other bigger fisheries did not join the strike as they do not have such grievances. We understand that some employers are not adhering to the approved wages, ill-treating their workers. This must stop,’’ said Mapfumo.
Strikes over poor wages and salaries are common in Zimbabwe where workers earn below the poverty datum line pegged at $500.