UNPAID WORKERS RETRENCHED BY ZISCO | Ziscosteel — once Africa’s largest steelworks — has retrenched its workers at its Redcliff plant in Kwekwe.
Workers, who have gone for extended periods without salaries, said they had been served with a notice by the company indicating its retrenching almost all employees. The layoffs follow the collapse of a deal with India’s Essar group.
Essar won the bid to take over Ziscosteel against competitors, including ArcelorMittal and Jindal Steel, with the takeover hyped at an elaborate 2011 event attended by President Robert Mugabe and his then power-sharing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
The deal faced headwinds over iron ore mineral rights that had been written in, but which hawks in Mugabe’s government opposed vehemently.
Ziscosteel board chairman Nyasha Makuvise reportedly told the company’s management, the workers’ committee and the workers union in a closed door meeting last week Tuesday that the retrenchments were to be effected from September 1.
The workers were officially handed notice of termination of employment letters backdated to August 31, 2016. The letter was signed by acting human resources manager Chris Machona.
“This letter serves to confirm that following agreement to retrench all employees reached between the organisation and your representatives at a Works Council meeting held at 30th August, 2016, your employment with Ziscosteel terminates on 31st August, 2016,” read the letter.
“Any amounts paid to you after the 31st August 2016, except salaries relating to the new contract, will be deducted from your outstanding salaries.“You shall be notified in due course on payment modalities once the debt assumption formalities by government are completed.”
In his 2016 budget, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said the government would take over Zisco’s estimated $700 million debt in a bid to woo fresh investors. Chinamasa also advised that all Zisco’s employees would have their contracts terminated on three months’ notice, a move that has come to pass.
Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha told a news briefing in Harare that global steel prices were firming, and government was keen to revive the integrated steelworks.
“We are, at the moment, looking for investors,” Bimha said.“Actually, we have had a lot of interested investors even before the debt issue was resolved. Looking at the end of January 2017, we will be able to zero in and short-list these investors.
“We are not just approaching the situation as it was before because a number of things have changed. “As you are aware, in the past we needed an investor to take over Zisco’s debt but government, through Finance ministry, has announced that it will take over the debt.”
Bimha said bickering in the inclusive government between the Mines and Industry ministries stalled progress on Ziscosteel.During the national budget consultative meetings held by the parliamentary finance committee in Redcliff in early December, workers implored the government to put the Ziscosteel issue as a priority in the treasury’s plans for next year.
David Chapfika chaired the heated meetings. “Zisco is a special case and deserves special attention. In my report I am going to make sure that the Zisco issue is a priority for the 2017 budget,” Chapfika said then.
But Chinamasa skirted the issue in his 2017 spending plan. Zimbabwe has already shed off thousands of jobs due to a shrink in the economy.