THE country’s giant chrome mining company, Zimasco, which is facing serious operational challenges has sent about 500 workers at its Shurugwi division on forced leave.
Letters revealed that a majority of them will, however, be required to report for duty once a month while others and the critical staff would be reporting for duty once a week.
The sending of workers on forced leave at Zimasco Shurugwi division follows a similar move at the company’s Kwekwe Smelting plant last month.
Management at Zimasco said the forced leave was aimed at avoiding retrenchments. They said the forced leave were with effect from 1 November.
“Special measures to avoid retrenchment; please be advised that following the closure of furnace 1 and 4 and the subsequent reduction in tonnage of ores required from the mines, some positions have become redundant or excess to requirement. You are affected in this change, accordingly, you shall be required to proceed on a compulsory leave as per leave roster per departmental head,” read part of the letter given to the workers.
According to the letter signed by the Shurugwi South Dyke general manager Mr Namatai Mapfumo, and dated 17 October 2012, the workers would be getting half salary per month until October next year.
The majority of workers take home $170 meaning that they will now be getting $85 per month before deductions.
“You will be paid at approximately 50 percent of your monthly salary during this period. Deductions for pension, medical aid, funeral schemes, house rentals will continue,” read the letter.
Workers interviewed said the move meant that they would not be getting any pay until October next year.
“What all this means is that the company has stopped paying salaries. We will be working without any benefit because if they continue to deduct the pension and the other mentioned contributions, it means we will be virtually taking home nothing because all these deductions will be taken from the remaining $85,” said a worker.
The workers said the company should just close and give them their packages. They blamed the company’s demise to poor management.
“This company is still rich in chrome deposits but the management has failed. They have contributed much to the demise of the company and Government must do something and intervene instead of watching thousands of workers losing jobs,” fumed another worker.
The workers threatened to embark on a strike similar to that of Marikana Mine workers in South Africa.
“We are still mobilising each other and we want to embark on a massive strike because we can’t fold our hands while the company is collapsing. We are still waiting for 1 November when this will be affected. We will definitely demonstrate,” said another worker.
A senior management official said the sending of workers on forced leave was as a result of the dwindling chrome ore deposits.
The official who declined to be named cited a “shrink” in the global chrome market as another reason for scaling down production.
“The biggest challenge we are facing as a company is that our ore deposits are diminishing. There has also been a decline in the demand for Ferro chrome on the world market, hence the decision to send workers on forced leave,” said the official.
Meanwhile, Zimasco is working on handing over about 4 000 mine houses to Shurugwi Town Council.
Sources said the company, which is facing serious operational challenges is struggling to maintain the structures and wanted to hand over the houses to the local authority.
“The houses are so dilapidated and the mine is failing to maintain them. This has become a cause for concern to the local authority and there are ongoing talks between the company management and Shurugwi Town Council authorities for the hand over process,” said the source.
Shurugwi Town Council chairman Councillor Bulle Madzitire confirmed the development. He said they were still negotiating terms with the Zimasco management.
“The process is still at the negotiating stage and I think it’s premature to announce it in the press now. We will advise you when everything has been finalised,” said Clr Bulle.
Zimasco general manager, marketing and administration Ms Clara Kadoma had not responded to questions e-mailed to her office at the time of going to Press.