23 May 2012

Zimbabwe: NewZim Steel Workers' Children Stranded

HUNDREDS of Ordinary and Advanced Level pupils whose parents and guardians work at NewZim Steel failed to register for this year's examinations after the company suspended paying its workers.

This came out in Parliament yesterday where the company's workers' representatives appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Industry and Commerce.

The workers said the suspension of their salaries had seen most pupils being turned away from school for failure to pay fees.

Buhera North legislator Cde William Mutomba (Zanu-PF) chairs the committee.

The workers' representatives included Iron and Steel Managerial Employees Association, Iron and Steel Workers Union, Zisco Artisan Union and the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Workers Union.

"Most of the workers' children, who were supposed to write their Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations, failed to register for the examinations because we were told that we would not be paid just before the deadline for registration," Ziscosteel Joint Unions Committee chairman Mr Benedict Moyo said.

"As we speak, our children, who are in boarding schools, have started coming back home after school authorities sent them away for failure to pay school fees. We have tried all avenues but have been hitting brick walls."

Mr Moyo, who is also a Zifa board member (competitions), said the suspension of their salaries had affected the welfare of most people in Redcliff.

"Zisco used to be the major supplier of water and electricity in some areas in Redcliff because Kwekwe pumps water into the Zisco system then the water would be pumped into the residential areas, which is the same scenario with Zesa and at the moment none of those is there, so you can see the plight that people are going through," he said.

The workers appealed for an interim relief to enable them pay school and examination fees.

"This situation affects the future generation especially those who have failed to register for examinations and those children who are being sent away from schools for failure to pay fees," Mr Moyo said.

The workers said over 75 percent of children in Kwekwe and Redcliff were children of NewZim Steel employees.

They said over 3 000 NewZim Steel employees had been affected by the salary freeze, while tens of thousands down stream were likely to be affected by delays in operating the giant steel company.

The workers representatives urged Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube and Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu to immediately sign the necessary papers for the company to get ore from BIMCO.

"We were never involved when this deal was being negotiated and for Essar to now come to us and say they will not pay us if the deal is not signed is not fair," said Mr Moyo.

"We don't want to be used as pawns in their (Ministers Ncube and Mpofu) fight. All we want are bread and butter issues to be addressed."

The workers representatives said employees were not sure of their future because of the way Essar has been operating.

NewZim Steel suspended paying salaries to its workers amid indications that Essar Africa Holdings has forked out millions in wages without production. It is understood that Essar is reluctant to continue pumping more money into NewZim Steel which is yet to get iron ore mining rights from the Government.

The Redcliff-based company owes its employees over US$12 million, a debt it assumed from the defunct Ziscosteel.

Essar is now the majority shareholder in NewZim Steel after Government sold its 54 percent stake in the company.

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