THE National Union of Mines Quarrying, Iron and Steel Workers of Zimbabwe (NUMQISWZ) has petitioned the Chinese-owned Fools Investment Mine at Hope Fountain on the outskirts of Bulawayo over poor working conditions.
The mine has been in the eye of a storm after its director, Zhang Zhongyi (61), allegedly assaulted two employees after they demanded protective clothing and outstanding salaries.
Zhongyi was arrested for assaulting Tatenda Mangena and Costan Mhasa and is out on $3 000 bail.
He was also ordered to leave the country after immigration officials discovered that his permit had expired.
NUMQISWZ legal education and training officer Shadreck Pelewelo on Thursday said the mine workers were being forced to work without protective clothing.
“The workers were asked to buy their own safety clothing,” Pelewelo said.
“Some go underground without helmets. To make it even worse, when electricity goes, the mine workers sometimes spend two days underground until the electricity is restored. It is very risky and worse than the artisanal mines situation.
“We want to put a stop to this. We have written to them and gave them Friday last week as the deadline to respond, but they are yet to respond.
“They have not bought safety clothing for the workers. In terms of section 104 subsection 4 of the Labour Act, workers can go on industrial action without notice based on the dangers they face in their working environment.”
Pelewelo said the union would inform the Mines ministry and advise members today to start industrial action.
The union’s regional officer Abraham Kavalanjila also said the workers were at risk of contracting COVID-19 as the company was failing to given them personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitisers.
Mine manager Thabani Masuku confirmed receiving a letter from the union and said the company was having challenges sourcing PPE, but would continue to engage suppliers.
“We received communication from the union and we are going to respond soon. I do not have much to say on that,” he said.
“There is a challenge, but we are engaging some suppliers to provide us with PPE. We, however, have sanitisers and are doing temperature checking.”
Masuku, however, could not comment on the issue of safety clothing such as helmets, gumboots as well as the issue of workers spending long hours underground.