HCCL shareholders did the right thing

THE decision by Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) shareholders not to pay directors fees for 2012 in view of the fact that workers have gone for 11 months without pay has to be applauded.

Shareholders fees for that particular year would have amounted to $476 352, a huge figure for a company that is technically insolvent.

The decision to turn down the request to pay the directors was engineered by the largest individual shareholder Nicholas van Hoogstraten at a board meeting in Harare on Monday.

However, the shareholders approved the 2013 directors’ fees of $302 012 amid reports that HCCL owes workers $19 million in outsanding salaries.

Foregoing the 2013 fees would have driven the point home in a perfect manner that the directors are concerned about the plight of workers at the colliery.

An important point was made by van Hoogstraten that probably some of the directors do not need the fees anywhere compared to the poor workers who have continued to offer their labour despite lack of pay.

The situation at HCCL where workers go for several months without pay is sadly no longer an isolated case.

Several companies can now afford to go for months and even years without paying workers while shareholders and directors’ charmed lives continue undisturbed.

Companies are quick to blame the state of the economy for this obvious injustice, but the example set by HCCL shareholders indicates that solutions do lie with those charged with giving direction to firms.

Directors have to be selfless and humane when their companies go through turbulent times, which means they have to think about their foot soldiers as well.

A workforce that is not well motivated would certainly not prove useful for companies in HCCL’s position.

Directors would have to live the talk on the need to tighten belts as part of the company’s turnaround strategy.

The corporate world has something to learn from the outcome of the HCCL board meeting.

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