By Kudzai Kuwaza
Thirty mining companies have successfully applied to be exempted from paying the 2018 minimum wage increment amid viability concerns.
The Chamber of Mines and the Associated Mineworkers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Amwuz) agreed on a 2,9% minimum wage increase for 2018 in January this year.
The latest increment brings the minimum wage in the mining sector to more than US$250.
Acting secretary-general of the national employment council for the mining sector, Archibald Tahwa, told businessdigest that they had approved 30 mining companies to be exempted from paying the minimum wage but turned down the exemption applications of five mining companies.
“As at May 2018, we exempted 30 mining companies from paying the minimum wage increment and we did not approve the applications of other five mining companies,” Tahwa said.
“Most of the miners whose exemption application we approved cited viability challenges. One chrome mining company cited low prices and the most gold mines which applied for exemption cited high productivity costs which include electricity tariffs.”
Amwuz president, Tinago Ruzive, said they are optimistic that, as the economy improves, the number of exemption applications would be reduced.
He said the current minimum wage is far below the rising cost of living.
“The minimum wage has never been adequate. Given the increase in the general cost of living, an adequate figure will be around US$500 a month,” Ruzive said.
He expressed concern over the ill-treatment of workers on some of the mines by some employers which include those from China.
“We are getting worrying reports of the rampant abuse of workers on the mines where some of them are not getting the stipulated minimum wage despite not applying for exemption,” Ruzive revealed. “Most of our workers are offered employment with salaries which are far less than the minimum wage and told to take it or leave it.”
Despite the increment, the 2017 State of the Mining Industry Survey revealed that all respondents of the survey were of the view they could not afford wage increments for 2018 due to viability challenges.
He said employers in the mining sector were faring badly when it comes to the provision of safety clothing for miners, thereby exposing them to hazardous conditions.
“Some employers are failing to provide protective clothing as provided by what is stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement. It obliges mining companies to provide two free issues of protective clothing,” Ruzive pointed out.
He however noted that there has been a reduction in the number of workers retrenched compared to previous years.
Last year, the mine workers’ body revealed that the number of employees has been decimated by more than 50% from 40 000 in 2009 to 15 000 due to the country’s deepening economic crisis.