HWANGE Colliery Company Limited has unilaterally withdrawn the rights of its workers after making an announcement that the Labour Act will no longer be applicable.
Workers fear the shocking move is largely targeted at those among them who are critical of maladministration and corruption.
The Labour Act governs the relationship between employees and employers so that there is harmony and fairness at the workplace.
In a controversial letter signed by Hwange Colliery administrator Munashe Shava and assistant administrator Mutsa Mollie Jean Remba, a partner at Dube, Manikai and Hwacha Legal Practitioners, the company said the Labour Act shall no longer be used for human resources matters at the coal-mining company.
The letter was circulated among disgruntled workers this Monday.
Part of the document obtained by The NewsHawks titled Procedures Relating to Employment reads: “Following the inception of the Business Improvement Plan (BIP) which is implementing the Scheme of Reconstruction by the Administrator, all employees of HCCL are urged to take note of this important notice.
“In terms of section 28 of the Reconstruction of State Indebted Entities Act [Chapter 24:27] (the Act), the Labour Act shall no longer be used for human resources matters in the company.
“However, during the subsistence of the administration . . . the company respects the employees’ administrative rights and wishes to advise the employees that termination of employment will only be implemented, as necessary . . .”
While the letter seems to suggest that Hwange Colliery’s reconstruction status is recent, that arrangement was actually implemented in August last year.
In the letter, Shava went to great lengths in explaining new conditions for the termination of contract workers, raising fear that it is the main objective behind the decision to suspend the use of the Labour Act.
The letter reads further: “The employees will be duly notified and be provided with the reasons for retrenchment.Termination (of contracts) will be on terms considered fair given the performance of the employee, available funds and principles of natural justice.
“The company will strive to pay the necessary terminal packages provided in terms of the contract and all the benefits.
“The company reserves the right to request an employee to immediately stop reporting for duty and to pay any affected employee salary/cash in lieu of notice.”
In another bizarre development that violates the rights of workers, the letter announced that the company’s code of conduct has also been suspended.
“The Wankie National Code of Employment will no longer be applicable until the company has been removed from administration. Where an employee commits an act of misconduct, the procedures set out in terms of the Administrative Justice Act [Chapter 10:28] will be applied,” reads part of the letter.
Hwange Central MP Daniel Molokele told The NewsHawks that he is concerned with the development and will be holding a meeting with representatives of the workers over the coming weekend.
“I want to fully appreciate the situation and will be meeting with the represantatives of the workers on Sunday. It is after that meeting that I will be able to further comment, in full detail, from an informed point of view,” he said.
Worker representatives at Hwange Colliery Company Ltd contacted for comment by The NewsHawks said they were not authorised to speak to the media. They warned that mere mention of their names would result in their victimisation.
Hwange Colliery has a long history of ill-treating and exploiting workers.
Since 2013, the company has had run-ins with wives of its employees over non-payment of salaries for their spouses.
In 2018, over 2 000 wives of the company’s employees staged a four-month-long sit-in protest over the non-payment of spouses’ salaries. The company subsequently gave in and paid backdated salaries.
Last year, the wives repeated the protests.
In June last year, elderly widows and children of the 427 workers who died in the 1972 Hwange Colliery Kamandama mine disaster door-stepped the then Mines minister Winston Chitando to call for government aid and allowances that could cushion them against abject poverty after being neglected by the coal-mining firm.
The horrific Kamandama disaster saw a coal-mining shaft caving in and burying 427 workers alive.
Each year on 6 June, the government holds commemorations to mark the day that is held dear in the collective memory of the Hwange community.
Chitando had visited Hwange to lead the year’s commemorations that marked the 50th anniversary of Zimbabwe’s worst-ever mine disaster.
It was in-between the commemorations that a number of elderly widows of the workers who died in the disaster approached Chitando with a distress call. He hastily arranged a meeting with them on the sidelines of the event.
In May this year, Hwange Colliery incurred a ZW$8.6 billion loss in the 12 months to December 2022, down from a profit of ZW$98.32 million reported in the previous year.
The company said it was largely due to the adverse impact of the legacy debts, but insiders revealed it was evidence of how the colliery is being run down.