Mine workers in renewed push for US dollar salaries
THE National Mine Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe (NMWUZ) is increasingly pushing for chrome, gold, diamond, lithium and platinum mining companies to pay employees in United States dollar-denominated salaries on the basis that the sector is the biggest forex earner.
Currently, mining companies like ZIMASCO, MIMOSA, Vumbachikwe, Rio Zimbabwe, Duration Gold, Calidonia and How Mine, among others, are paying their workers in line with a formula of 60% RTGS and 40% US dollars.
The existing salary scales for the mine workers were agreed last year. The National Employment Council for Mining Workers (NECMW) wrote a letter dated 24 February 2022 ordering mining companies to increase the wages by 46%, bringing the earnings of the lowest paid worker to ZW$45 000 and the highest to ZW$103 000.
Every worker gets 60% of their salaries in the local currency while 40 percent is paid in United States dollars.
However, NMWUZ president Kurebwa Javangwe Nomboka told The NewsHawks on Thursday that there is a push for mining companies to pay workers wholly in the US dollars.
“As far as we are concerned, all mining companies have the capacity to pay salaries in USD chiefly because all minerals — be it gold, platinum, chrome, lithium — are sold in USD. Why then would the employer want to convert to ZWL when they are aware of the difficulties of the local currency in terms of storing value? The answer is simple; they are taking advantage of the economic situation and-anti worker’s government policy which only promote capital interests,” he said, adding: “In 2022, we made a push for mine workers to receive their salaries in USD. However, the employers did not agree with our proposal and instead awarded a 40% USD salary component, with the remaining 60% in RTGS.
“As National Mine Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe we still hold our position that mine workers need to be paid in a currency that not only protects them against economic forces but can be stored as a value of wealth.”
Unlike in the Tripartite Negotiating Forum where different unions are involved in deliberations and negotiations for the welfare of their members, in the mining sector the discussions are strictly between the Associated Mine Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe and Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe.
Their agreements are binding but Nomboka said that state of affairs was unfair and compromised.
In October 2020 when Zimbabwe’s annualised inflation was 659.4% — being the second-highest in the world after Venezuela which sat at 1 813.1% for September (2020) the Associated Mine Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe and Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe, made an agreement for the lowest paid employee to get ZW$18 000 a month, while the highest paid would ZW$41 748 which was roundly rejected by other unions as it was below job market levels.
Before the adjustment, the lowest paid worker was getting ZW$14 750, while the highest paid was getting ZW$34 210.
“At this juncture we are not able to directly negotiate on behalf of our members as the NEC is currently monopolised; with AMWUZ representing the workers and Chamber of Mines representing the employers. We believe all unions should be given a seat at the negotiating table to enable for diversity of opinions which is in the best interest of the employees. To this effect we have made an application to the NEC and we are looking forward to being accepted to the negotiations,” Nomboka told The NewsHawks.
He blamed the crisis faced by mine workers on government policies which give a lot of support to employers in the quest of currying their favour.
“Currently employers are not listening to the grievances of employees nor are they giving them bonuses and benefits they deserve. This is partly owing to government policies (e.g. the Zimbabwe is open for business mantra) which give power to the employer without looking at the perspective of the employee.
“Consequentially, employers are hiring and firing at will as they feel they have the backing of the government.
“This makes collective bargaining difficult for employees as the risk of job loss is high,” he said.
The trade unionist warned the government against ignoring grievances of mine workers in an election year.
“This year is election year and a labour forum will be convened as labour organisations seek to identify the party with a manifesto that best addresses the needs of the employees. As president of NMWUZ, I encourage all mine workers to register to vote and to ensure all members of their families eligible to vote also register.
“We will inform them of the results of the labour forum so they can be well informed as they go into the election.
“Our major expectation and demand is that the minimum wage for the mining sector be increased to US$850 to adequately cover for the rising poverty datum line (PDL) and enable mine workers to save for the future,” he said.
Mining is the biggest forex earner in Zimbabwe followed by tobacco.