“This is a national strike which covers the whole country and so far 25,000 workers have heeded our call to go on strike,” Tinago Ruzive, president of the Associated Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe, told AFP.
“The chamber of mines has refused to negotiate with us.”
Ruzive said the national chamber of mines had instructed its members not to pay workers the full 140-dollar wage increase awarded by a labour tribunal.
“This is a violation of the law. We understand that the industry is not yet out of the pit, but workers are suffering,” he said.
The workers are demanding 290 dollars a month for the lowest-paid employees, who currently earn 140 dollars a month.
Zimbabwe’s mining sector, which employs 40,000 workers, is showing signs of recovery after years of contraction caused by an economic crisis that saw hyperinflation.
Last month, unions gave employers 14 days to raise their salaries. The ultimatum expired Tuesday.
The gold sector has so far produced 1,667 tonnes during the first quarter of the year, compared to zero production during the same period last year.
Chris Hokonya, chief executive of the chamber of mines, said the strike was premature as negotiations were still on.
“It is very unfortunate that they have decided to go on strike. This has resulted in man hours lost, which will obviously affect the companies’ positions to pay them,” Hokonya told AFP.
In 2008, most of the country’s mines were either placed under care and maintenance or closed down due to hyperinflation and stringent export regulations that compelled companies to sell minerals through the central bank.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been stabilising since a power-sharing government, formed last year between President Robert Mugabe and former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, ditched the local dollar in favour of the US dollar. AFP