The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has petitioned Labour Minister, Paul Mavima to urgently intervene following reports of labour violations at the Chinese-run Manhidze Steel Works project.
The project worth US$1.5 billion is being implemented by a Chinese firm, Dinson Iron and Steel Company (DISCO).
It will be Africa’s largest integrated steel plant and is anticipated to start production in August this year producing over 1.2 million tons of steel.
While the massive investment is expected to unlock thousands of jobs for struggling locals alarm has been raised over ensuing labour rights abuses at the plant.
Kudakwashe Munengiwa, the acting secretary general of the ZCTU, expressed his alarm about the situation in a letter to Mavima that was obtained by NewZimbabwe.com. Read part of the letter:
As you might be aware, the Manhidze Project in Mvuma is being constructed by a Chinese company DISCO and our affiliate union, the Zimbabwe Construction and Allied Trade Workers Union (ZCATWU), visited the company on various occasions with the intention or organising and recruiting the construction workers.
Their efforts to organise and recruit members at the company has been frustrated by the company management which has been giving flimsy excuses to deny them access to the site.
The union even approached the registrar of Labour Ms. Mugomazi and Principal Labour Officer from Gweru Mr. Maburutse, who tried their best to help, but without success.
He said the company’s management even refused to accept stop order forms signed by workers who wanted to join the union.
The ZCTU says the company is now forcing workers to join a union that the employer is trying to form in direct violation of the Labour Act and the ILO Conventions 98 and 87 on the right to organise and freedom of association.
ZCTU says DISCO’s actions will tarnish the image of the country globally as it will be viewed as anti-union.
Chinese firms in Zimbabwe face accusations of human rights violations, such as worker exploitation, environmental harm, and lack of transparency. Reports include low wages, hazardous work conditions, and a lack of safety gear.
Some firms are accused of illegal activities like corruption and smuggling, but the scope of these abuses is unclear and claims are disputed.