By Andile Tshuma
Former Zimplow workers who last year dragged the company to court over compensation benefits yesterday staged a six-hour long demonstration at the company’s premises along Old Khami Road in Bulawayo.
They were demanding outstanding payments following their retrenchment in 2015.
Mr Paul Ngwenya, a former foreman who served the company for 35 years, led the protest. Anti-riot police had to be called to the scene after workers bulldozed their way into the managing director, Mr Walter Chigwada’s office, accusing him of avoiding meeting them for ‘a very long time’.
They successfully managed to secure the meeting with company executives in the board room in the presence of the police from the Law and Order section and members of the Press.
Mr Chigwada initially refused to address the meeting in the presence of the Mthwakazi Republic Party representative, Mr Patson Xaba, who was also present but later agreed that he sits in but would not make any contributions during the meeting.
Mr Chigwada said the retrenchment process was done above board and gave a copy of a Labour Court order dated November 28 2018 showing that the workers had withdrawn the matter from the courts.
“The retrenchment process was done above board and everyone was paid their full dues according to the agreements, which you all signed. There were three batches all with their respective contracts. So, everyone got what was due according to the batch in which they were in,” he said.
“I know that this matter was taken to court but I have proof that I am sharing with you and members of the Press that this matter was withdrawn from the Labour Court.”
Mr Ngwenya said the company had imposed its terms on the second batch of workers who signed up for the retrenchment exercise in 2015.
“We just received letters with terms to sign and return to the company but we were not given the option to sit down and engage with the company and agree as what happened with the other group. A simple letter informing an employee about his or her benefits deposited into the account does not carry the weight that is required,” he said.
“For the benefit of everyone it will be a good thing to give us final statements indicating how our contributions have been incorporated.”
Mr Ngwenya said while they initially signed letters detailing compensation received, they later realised that they were shortchanged.
“What we simply want is to be told how these calculations were made because we feel we did not get all our dues. The company did not negotiate in good faith. The truth is the company owes us some money and it was not fair to be kicked out like that after serving for 37 years like some of us. The company does not want to listen to us and we hope the courts will hear our plea,” he said.
In response, Mr Chigwada insisted that the company had done nothing wrong adding that he was going to issue a position letter on the matter which would detail the company’s standpoint and determine the future of the talks.
When the Chronicle left the company, the letter had not yet been issued.
The police officers were on standby outside in the courtyard while the meeting progressed.
Last year the group of 57 former Zimplow workers approached the High Court claiming they were robbed of some of their dues in the compensation process.
Among the concerned are former Bulawayo Steel Products’ workers before the company merged with Zimplow. The group claimed efforts to engage with management were fruitless hence they resorted to protests.
Mr Xaba said his organisation would continue to assist workers to get justice at the courts.
“You cannot have a situation where people are unfairly treated. The workers have a case and the company should give them what is due to them,” he said. The Chronicle