THE 3 percent wage increase awarded to platinum and diamond mineworkers in Zimbabwe was not enough and laid the groundwork for a potential dispute with employers, mining labour union officials said yesterday.

\n

br Mineworkers at Unki

\n

Tensions have been simmering in the Zimbabwean mining industry, with mineworkers accusing mining groups – which include South African producers Impala Platinum, Anglo American Platinum, as well as global diamond producer, Rio Tinto – of not prioritising the welfare of mineworkers.

\n

However, the Zimbabwean mining labour environment was, mine executives said, less problematic compared with that in neighbouring South Africa, where mining operations were frequently stopped because of labour disputes.

\n

Below expectations

\n

Sylvester Mushaike, the general secretary of the National Mineworkers Union of Zimbabwe (NMUZ), said yesterday that the 3 percent wage increase negotiated by the Associated Mineworkers Union of Zimbabwe (Amwuz) fell below his union’s expectations.

\n

There are predominantly two mineworkers’ unions in Zimbabwe: NMUZ and Amwuz.

\n

“We are not happy with it and it falls way below what our members want,” Mushaike said. NMUZ said its members were also not happy with the working environment, which he said was not always safe.

\n

Isaac Kwesu, the chief executive of Zimbabwe’s chamber of mines, was apparently locked up in meetings yesterday and could not immediately comment.

\n

Other officials at the chamber of mines, however, showed Business Report a note outlining the 3 percent wage rise for workers in the diamond and platinum industries, which was being circulated to mining houses. They said mining companies in Zimbabwe could not “afford to pay more than the 3 percent”, as they were being rattled by rising operational costs that were threatening “the viability” of operations.

\n

The simmering tensions between Zimbabwean mineworkers and their employers have come at a time when reserve bank chief John Mangudya has advised against further salary increases. This is part of a raft of measures to contain costs for the government and for companies, aimed at growing productivity and the economy.

\n

Alex Mhembere, the president of the chamber of mines of Zimbabwe and also chief executive of Zimplats, told Business Report in a January 5 interview in Harare that mining companies “appreciate the need to pay employees well, but there is that big challenge in terms of doing it on a sustainable basis”, especially at a time when companies are facing challenges with imported raw materials.

\n

“The country has been experiencing inflation rates of less than 3 percent, and could be in deflation, but wages have been… way above the inflation rate at 5 percent. This is coming at a time when productivity in the industry has not improved because of other challenges.”

\n

Mushaike said his union was lobbying for an improvement in the mining safety environment and regulations.

\n

He said the current labour laws for the mining industry were more favourable towards employers.

\n

Mineworkers union representatives had earlier demanded a 10 percent wage rise for workers employed by platinum and diamond mining companies and a 6 percent wage rise for workers employed by companies extracting other minerals.

\n

The latest increase takes the wage for the least paid mineworker in Zimbabwe to about $242 (R2 820) a month.