Turk Mine workers' pay strike enters 24th day

Turk Mine workers' pay strike enters 24th day
Published: 15 December 2017
A STRIKE by more than 700 workers at Turk Mine in Bubi District over salary arrears of about six months reached day 24 yesterday.

They have been staging sit-ins and blocking any movement at the mine gates as they demand to be addressed by management who have since abandoned the mine fearing violence.

Workers have sometimes held managers hostage by refusing them free passage in and out of the mine premises. Responding to written questions from The Chronicle yesterday, Turk Mine chief executive officer Mr Jackson Murehwa said:

"More than 700 employees are on strike over wage arrears, a strike that has gone for more than 20 days. The workers are demanding that they are paid a large portion of their arrears, which the mine will not be able to carry at once. The mine has, however, put practical proposals on the table, which they have rejected. "Important to note that whilst most of the workers would have liked to continue working, the threats and abuse from the fewer more militant workers scares off anybody who tries to go to work," he said.

Mr Murehwa said management has failed to follow the legal route to block the strike because initially the workers did not follow the procedures in the Labour Act when intending to engage in a strike.

"They were supposed to have given notice to management and advise the Ministry of Labour and police of their intentions. Had they done that, we would have also followed the legal processes that are set before a strike is sanctioned. In this case, the workers failed to follow the laid procedures making their action illegal at law.

"In addition to the illegal strike, the workers have been breaking law and order as they are blocking the gate, threatening anyone who wants to go to work with bodily harm, trespassing by forcing themselves into the mine complex or jumping fences, and sometimes holding managers hostage by refusing them free passage into and out of the mine offices," said Mr Murehwa.

He said the strike has been prolonged because the few militant striking workers have had a free rein since the beginning of the strike.

"Workers have refused any form of engagement asking only to be addressed as a group, which is not practical in negotiations. From the beginning, all practical offers to go forward that were made by management were rejected. Interventions from the Ministry of Labour and District leadership in trying to establish a negotiating platform were also rowdily rejected," he said.

He said the strike has seriously affected production at the moment with management only keeping essential services going with the help of senior managers.

"The illegal strike has affected production with ripple effects that bring pain to all stakeholders associated with the mine, which includes the local community, employees and their families. We remain hopeful that this will eventually come to an end soon," said Mr Murehwa.

Bubi Rural District Council chief executive officer Mr Patson Mlilo said council has tried to intervene urging the mine to do the best it can to resolve the dispute as the district cannot afford to lose the services of such a big mine.

"Turk Mine is one of the biggest mines in the district and the local community can't afford losing it. We urge authorities to do the best in their powers to gather funds to pay up workers so that production continues. Our local community greatly benefits from this mine, in terms of employment and share ownership funds. We cannot afford such disruptions," he said.

In June, anti-riot police were called to restore order at Turk Mine when wives of striking workers became violent as they barred their husbands from returning to work before receiving salaries.
- online
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