SUBJECT: The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) notes with concern, the continued blatant disregard of labour laws by Chinese employers across all sectors of the economy despite concerted engagements at all levels on the matter over the years.
We have observed serious labour violations torture, beatings, gender based violence, underpayments and a host of other unfair labour practices one can think of have been perpetrated on locals by the Chinese.
Workers are constantly raising grievances to the effect that that their rights were habitually violated as most of them are paid less than the stipulated industrial minimum wages/salaries. Workers in Chinese establishments are generally exposed to unsafe working conditions, and noncompliance with labour standards, they are denied their basic fundamental rights which include: -
• The right to membership to Trade Unions or a Workers Committee.
• The right to prohibition of forced labour.
• The right to protection against discrimination.
• The right to fair labour standards.
• The right to democracy at workplace.
It is shocking that some Chinese establishments force workers to work without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and when such is provided they deduct the costs from employee earnings. The companies are wilfully violating safety and health regulations as employees exposed to hazards such as ergonomic, physical, mechanical, chemical, biological and psychosocial are not taken for occupational medical check-ups. Some workers have been injured and some killed as a result of workplace hazards and none of them have been adequately compensated.
There is also serious under reporting of workplace accidents and this needs to be investigated. This is a clear indication that provisions of Statutory Instrument 68 of 1990 for the provision of financial relief to workers and or their dependents when a worker is injured or killed in a work related accident or suffers from a work related disease or dies thereof are being grossly violated and an urgent redress is recommended.
All these violations are perpetrated against locals while the Chinese declare immunity and protection from individuals in high offices. The ZCTU asserts that there is no employer or individual who is above the law. The Chinese are not immune neither are they excluded from upholding labour rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the Labour Act Chapter28:01. We take this opportunity to warn individuals in high offices and those masquerading as consultants who are in connivance with the Chinese to enslave and subject workers to some of the worst treatment observed since 1980 that the tide will rise against them soon.
Instead of working on improving their weaknesses following several engagements by various trade unions and federations the Chinese have been defensive and have sought to protect their interests and brands over the welfare of employees. Efforts to engage the Chinese ambassador on the same concerns last year came to naught and the ZCTU is now prepared to escalate the matter even up to the international level.
Workers are now workplace victims, unions in trying to assist have always met up with resistance, and more so, against the background of a government that is calling for more investors. The call for foreign direct investment is not a call for enslavement. When the Government made a call that Zimbabwe was open for business; it was a call for positive contributions to the social wellbeing of locals and their economy. It was not a call for the destruction of workers' physical, mental and social wellbeing through failure to adhere to basic fundamental labour standards.
The gravity of union busting by the Chinese is posing an existential threat to the labour movement and must be met with equal measure. We cannot sit and watch while workers are being abused. We are calling on the responsible ministries to quickly institute measures to curb the Chinese offensive attack and correct the situation. While we are calling for an all stakeholders engagement we cannot continue to stomach a situation where the labour movement and workers suffer exploitation and ‘slavery’ perpetrated by the Chinese and their conduits in government. It is high time the labour movement and the people of Zimbabwe rise up and liberate themselves from the tentacles of Chinese capitalism.