By Mark Mhukayesango
Kwekwe, March 11, 2016 – ZISCOSTEEL workers are in dire straits after receiving only $100 as payment last year and having gone for more than 5 years without a salary.
Irate workers are demanding audience with the company management which has in the past months failed to provide answers to their outstanding questions as the faltering steel giant continuously fails to rise from the ashes.
The workers received the ridiculous salary in June last year, an amount which would translate to $8 per month whilst some received some groceries as part of management’s efforts to sustain them through hard times.
“Management paid us $100 last year for our upkeep, which we respect because it seems they care a little for our survival, but more needs to be done because we are being evicted from our houses,” Ziscosteel Joint Workers Union chairman, Benedict Moyo told RadioVOP.
“Most of our members owe years in monthly rentals and this is not sustainable.”
Moyo said the company had the option of liquidating company assets so as to pay outstanding salaries.
ZiscoSteel owes workers $250 million in salary arrears since the company shut down operations about five years ago.
The salary impasse was one sticking area which featured prominently during a botched deal between government and Essar, as the Indian company, could not agree to paying millions in salary arrears.
After receiving the $100 salaries, the workers have not heard from their employer.
Zisco has not been producing for more than five years with Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Busisa Moyo remarking recently the workers could not draw any salaries since the company has not been producing.
“Now we have thousands of workers at Zisco who are demanding salaries even if the company has failed to produce for five years. Workers should be paid based on their productivity,” argued Moyo.
Most of the steel miner’s workers are now surviving on selling scrap metal.
Recent threats by the Redcliff Town Council to evict Zisco Steel workers sent panic among the workers who hastily sought audience with management.
Some workers have turned into vendors among other menial jobs to eke a living, reducing the workers to mere paupers in the once thriving town of Redcliff which has become a pale shadow of its former self.
Workers committee members said they were in the process of engaging human rights lawyers in the issues.
Moyo said that workers were forced to take the legal route since both management and government have not been forthcoming on issues relating to unpaid salaries.
They have further resisted plans to be retrenched before the matter could be put to rest.
Workers are also riled by that the government kept matters to do with the company’s future under wraps.
Government last year finally conceded failure to uphold the Essar deal which dragged for five years due to government policy inconsistencies with investors.
Essar failed to agree with government about the transfer of iron ore claims and the take-over of nearby Munyati power station for purposes of uninterrupted power, until details of government’s debts to foreign firms emerged.
These included the $50 million debt to one of China’s largest steel companies, Shougang Corporation, for the upgrade of Ziscosteel blast furnace four, which was completed in 1998 which meant Essar would be liable to pay the outstanding debt.