Munyaradzi Musiiwa, Midlands Correspondent
THE Government has started settling outstanding salaries of more than 1 600 Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company workers while processing their packages after it retrenched the entire workforce in August this year following the collapse of the Essar deal.
Sunday News Business has it in good authority that the workers started getting 40 percent of their monthly salaries at two weeks intervals last month as the Government tries to cushion the employees who had gone for more than six years without pay.
Former Ziscosteel Workers Committee chairman, who is still representing the retrenched workers, Mr Benedict Moyo confirmed that ex-workers have been getting part of their money after they agreed with the management that they give them their salary for one month.
“I can confirm that we received a certain percentage of our monthly salaries. We were all retrenched in August this year on three months notice. We were promised our packages but first they promised to give us part of our salaries.
“We are hoping that the Government honours its commitment and be able to give us the money they promised in full and also process our retrenchment packages,” he said.
Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha could neither deny nor confirm the development referring questions to the Zisco management.
“As Government we facilitate its revival but when it comes to the payment of workers that is dealt with administratively by the management. I advise you to get hold of the management and get more information regarding that development,” he said.
Redcliff Mayor Councillor Fred Kapuya said the payment of Ziscosteel workers by Government was a welcome development as this will also enable them to pay for the services they have been getting for the past few years as well as paying rent for the over 500 housing units that they were renting out to some of the former employees. He said this will also ensure that there is improvement in service delivery.
“Most of the former Zisco employers are the biggest defaulters in terms of paying for the services. As the local authority we hope that the workers will also pay their bills once they receive their money from Government. This will also improve the livelihoods of many people,” he said.
Ziscosteel employees had not received their salaries since 2008 when the company ceased operations and only started to receive allowances to sustain them when Essar diluted Government shareholding in the steel company.
Employees of the steel company were owed a combined $250 million in salary arrears and Government has moved in to assume the Ziscosteel debt in order to make the company “more attractive” to potential suitors.
The Government rekindled hope for the revival of once the biggest integrated steelworks in Africa when it sold 54 percent of its shares in Zisco to Essar in a $750 million deal which included taking over Zisco’s debts and liabilities.
Ziscosteel had seized operation in 2008 as it choked under a $340 million debt and other viability problems and Essar Holdings came to its rescue.
The Essar deal was expected to bring back life to Redcliff while at the same time uplifting the wellbeing of over 3 500 workers.
But a year after the signing of the deal, hopes which had been rekindled died. Under the deal Essar Holdings were to invest over US$4 billion over four years at New Zim Steel, including setting up a 600-megawatt thermal power plant to support the steelworks.