November 19, 2010

Union condemns Chinese firms for abusing workers

The Zimbabwe Construction and Allied Trades Workers’ Union (ZCATWU) has threatened to take ‘strong’ action against Chinese owned companies that were allegedly violating labour laws by abusing local workers. The Union accused the Chinese construction companies of among other things “beating up and firing local workers at will.” The union also said some of the firms had claimed to enjoy protection from the government and therefore cannot be punished for abusing workers.

According to Union secretary general Muchapiwa Mazarura, the biggest employer of construction workers in Zimbabwe were chinese companies. However, they were not treating workers in accordance with the Labour Relations Act. He said that Chinese firms were getting all the major contracts while local firms are not getting any. “Before entering into agreements with the Chinese the government should also invite the workers’ representatives,” said Mazarura. “And when you to the Chinese sites you find that they do not speak English,” he added.

Detailing some of the violations, Mazarura accused the companies of not providing protective clothing such as the hard hats, overalls and hard boots. He said there were no toilets on many of the Chinese sites. Mazarura alos complained that workers were underpaid, because the National Employment Council (NEC) was not inviting workers’ representatives to discuss wages. The Chinese firms were paying locals through what is known as ‘task work’, and that paid much less.

Mazarura threatened to take action if what he described as the ‘inhuman treatment’ continues. He said: “Our strategy is to first demonstrate against the Chinese in Zimbabwe. If this does not help then our members will not work on those sites.” (The Zimbabwean)

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