Chinese-owned Fools Investment Mine in Hope Fountain near Bulawayo has reportedly dismissed all its underground workers without notice, prompting the trade union which represents workers to threaten to take legal action against the company.
The mine was recently summoned to the National Employment Council (NEC) for the mining industry to answer to charges of underpaying employees and failing to provide protective clothing.
The mine was also caught in the eye of a storm after one of its directors assaulted two employees over outstanding salaries.
The National Union of Mines Quarrying, Iron and Steel Workers of Zimbabwe (NUMQISWZ) regional officer Abraham Kavalanjila confirmed the dismissal of more than 30 employees.
“Fools Mine unfairly dismissed all underground workers and we have since written to them.
“The verbal response from management was that they maintain their stance. Very soon we will be taking them to court on unfair labour practices by the employer,” Kavalanjila said. “The union will not sit and watch employers breaking the law despite being advised on several times. If the Chinese are failing to run the mine, we call upon the government to put the company under judicial management. We believe the mine has potential if managed well.”
He said the mine was also failing to pay workers on time.
“On personal protective equipment (PPEs) yes, they have started issuing its workers. All those dismissed were not paid their salaries,” he said.
Kavalanjila said the outstanding salaries for the fired workers could be around US$300 000.
On March 25, NUMQISWZ wrote to the mine, demanding reinstatement of employees without loss of pay and benefits.
“We are made to understand that you unfairly instructed (name supplied) not to come to work with immediate effect without any reason. You are hereby instructed to reinstate the said employee without loss of pay and benefits.
“Also we demand the return with immediate effect to the work of all underground employees whom you also instructed them not to come to work. The duty of the employer is to provide a job to his/her employees.
“Following our last meeting, we advised the employer to rectify that, but to our surprise you are continuing with your wrong actions. We don’t believe in taking each other to the courts of law, but in this regard you are forcing the trade union to take that action or direction. All in all, we hereby demand the return of all underground employees…..with immediate effect, failure to do so we will be left with no option but legal actions against you,”” the letter read.
Mine manager Thabani Masuku said work in the mine was temporarily suspended for maintenance work. The mine last month was slapped with a $40 000 fine for allowing a foreigner, Zhang Zhongyi, to work as a metallurgist at the mine without a valid permit.
Zhongyi’s illegal stay in the country was exposed after he assaulted two workers who confronted mine management demanding payment of their outstanding salaries.