Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
TROUBLED coal mining giant, Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL), will engage workers’ unions in a bid to make a truce with its employees’ spouses who have been on a two-week demonstration in protest of outstanding salaries.
HCCL acting chairperson, Ms Juliana Muskwe, said the company managed to pay its workers part of their outstanding salaries for the month of January last week in fulfilment of the scheme of arrangement.
“We managed to pay the employees in honour of the scheme of arrangement and we are looking at paying them their February payment by end of the month and subsequent instalments will be paid monthly going forward as per the provisions of the scheme of arrangement,” said Ms Muskwe.
Last year creditors of the company voted in favour of the scheme of arrangement which is expected to be a stepping stone towards the settlement of its more that $350 million debt. As part of the contractual provisions of the scheme of arrangement, HCCL has to ensure partial monthly disbursement of outstanding wages to its employees.
Ms Muskwe said the HCCL’s management would soon engage workers’ unions with a view of reaching a solution to address the impasse which has seen employees’ wives camping at the company’s managerial offices in Hwange for two weeks demanding substantial amounts of the outstanding salaries.
“Our management will be engaging with the trade and workers unions soon in an effort to solve this impasse. We are really trying to find a way of dealing with the situation affecting our employees,” she said.
Ms Muskwe, however, said it was the company’s view that the demonstration has been hijacked by malcontents pursuing other vendettas.
“We don’t believe all the women who are involved in that demonstration are wives of our employees. Of course, the leaders are the wives of our workers but they have been joined by others that have nothing to do with the situation at hand and we strongly believe the demonstrations are now being used to pursue other interests which might be politically motivated. These people don’t know the situation we are facing as a company,” she said.
The firm has been paying its workforce 50 percent of their salaries since the beginning of last year and in June the company paid seven percent of the employees’ 36 months’ outstanding dues.
In December, the company also paid the allotted 2,6 percent monthly payment as per the scheme of arrangement.
However, an announcement by management that the company would only be in position to pay monthly 2,6 percent in accordance with the scheme of arrangement in June going foward as well as the ring fencing of the half salaries for the month of October, November and December infuriated the workers culminating in their wives engaging in a protest.
A representative of the employees’ wives, Mrs Thokozile Shoko, said the payment received by employees in accordance with the scheme of arrangement was a pittance and they would continue camping at the company’s management premises until the disbursement of substantial amounts.
“The money which was deposited on the employees’ accounts is a pittance, in actually fact it’s a mockery. We will continue camping at the offices up until something meaningful is deposited into their accounts. It should also be noted that we didn’t come to an agreement with the management and Minister (Home Affairs and Culture) Obert Mpofu promised to come back to us thus we have no reason of calling off the demonstrations yet,” she said.
It is reported that HCCL creditors scheme of arrangement chairman Mr Andy Lawson visited the company last week on a fact finding mission particularly focusing on the company’s production side.
Meanwhile, the company has approached the High Court seeking an order directing acting Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga to deploy anti-riot police to eject people demonstrating at its premises.-@DNsingo