Mine Workers Threaten To Strike

MINEWORKERS have threatened to down tools should  they  receive their next salary in  local currency, a development that could aggravate the crisis in the country’s major foreign currency earner.

Associated Mineworkers Union of Zimbabwe president, Tinago Ruzive told businessdigest yesterday that mine workers will hold showdown talks with the Chamber of Mines on Thursday where they will table their demand for all mineworkers to be paid in United States dollars.

“We are meeting  with the Chamber of Mines of the 15th (January) and are strategising how to convince them to pay workers in US dollars,” said Ruzive.

“Mineworkers are reeling in poverty and are starving because they are being paid in local currency when almost everything is being charged in US dollars. The situation is quite bad. If we are not paid in United States dollars, we will go on a collective job action,” he said.

Ruzive however declined to disclose the figures they will be asking for when they meet the Chamber of Mines.

The mining industry has over the past five years been reeling under serious constraints, mainly in the gold sector because of the Reserve Bank’s failure to pay for gold delivered through its subsidiairy Fidelity Printers since 2007.

The Reserve Bank is said to owe goldminers at least US$30 million backdated to 2007.  The situation is so dire that one producer  told businessdigest this week that they had delivered less than two and half tonnes of gold last year.

Ruzive said that although they understood that the mining industry was going through a difficult time, miners  deserved to earn a decent wage and be able to come to work.

Should miners go on strike, they will join teachers and nurses who have not reported for duty since late last year paralysing the health and education sectors.

A mining industry player said that while they sympathised with the plight of workers, their demands could not be met given the crisis in the mining sector adding that the ultimatum was irrational.

He pointed out that with mining companies having scaled down their operations this ultimatum would only  bring about the total collapse of the industry.

Meanwhile employers are set to  meet the Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono next week in a bid to be granted permission to pay workers in foreign currency.

Miners said they were worried that while the Zimbabwe dollar was the legal tender, it was no longer being accepted for commercial purposes.   

They argued that if they were to retain staff to sustain operations, workers needed to be paid in foreign currency.

The growing chorus for salaries to be paid in foreign currency was prompted by the near total dollarisation of the economy where most goods and services are now being charged in hard currency. This has made the local currency virtually worthless.

The dollarisation of the economy was instigated by the decision of the Reserve Bank to license a number of service providers and retail outlets  to sell in foreign currency under the Foreign Exchange Licensed Wholesalers and Retail Shops programme.

BY KUDZAI KUWAZA