THE Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union (Zdamwu) yesterday claimed that negotiations for first quarter wage increments had stalled after the National Employment Council (NEC) for the mining industry and the Chamber of Mines Zimbabwe (CoMZ) reportedly turned down requests for meetings.
Zdamwu general-secretary Justice Chinhema said the CoMZ had argued that inflationary pressures had been tapering off.
As such, there would be no reason to negotiate for first quarter wage increments.
Last week, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said annual inflation increased to 362% in January, from 348% in December last year.
In the past month, basic commodity prices have also skyrocketed, raising workers' anxiety as their incomes have not been adjusted to keep pace with the cost of living.
Their plight has been compounded by the switch to use of foreign currency in paying for goods and services, while salaries are paid in Zimbabwe dollars.
"We are shocked, appalled and angered with news from the Associated Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe (Amwuz) that no wage increase has been reached due to differences between the parties. We would want to state categorically that this is unacceptable," the Zdamwu boss said.
Chinhema said parties to the negotiations, including the CoMZ, were aware that collective bargaining processes had traditionally been carried out quarterly with everyone compelled to share their views.
However, other reports suggested that the wage negotiations were affected by lockdown measures introduced to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Labour unions and NECs have not been classed as essential services, which means their officials cannot travel for salary negotiations.
"Reasons being proffered for failing to come up with the wage agreement must be dismissed with the contempt they deserve. In fact, mine workers in Zimbabwe reject the excuse that Chamber of Mines believes there was no inflationary movement that affected workers' incomes in the past months. Mines have been allowed by the government to operate normally since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The mining industry wage negotiations have lost relevance. It is now a cult meeting of elites without mine workers' interests and the revival of the economy through mining, but only the protection of their interests," Chinhema noted.
COMZ chief executive officer Isaac Kwesu told NewsDay Business that negotiations were still underway, but referred this publication to the NEC for more clarity.
Taurai Kabote, general-secretary for the NEC, said: "It is unfortunate that the union that sent you that statement is not part even of the NEC. So I am not sure where they are getting that information because as far as I am concerned, the negotiations are still underway."
But Chinhema said the mining industry was determined not to increase wages.
"We know they are doing their best, but still want to continue paying slave wages. Information of increase in production is in the public domain that since 2019, there has been an increase in production. However, this is at the expense of workers," he said.
"For how long are we going to see travesty of justice on workers? For how long are we going to allow employers to negotiate for themselves on behalf of workers? We are warning the Chamber of Mines that we are taking the wage negotiations to their doorstep," fumed Chinhema.
He said government's plan to build a US$12 billion mining sector economy may not be achieved if salary disputes are not resolved.
"Workers are an important stakeholder in the extraction of resources in Zimbabwe. As Zdamwu, we are now directing our members to take the wage negotiations to the workplace works councils," he said.