There was free drama in the Kwekwe City Centre after workers who were demanding their wages and salaries mobbed their Chinese employers and deflated tyres of two vehicles outside the entrance of a local bank.
Former employees of a Chinese-owned company – Jilin Hou Yuan Metallurgical Furnace Burden Co Ltd, which was contracted by chrome smelting company Zimasco – mobbed their employers, as they left a local bank, demanding they be paid their November salaries and terminal benefits.
After failing to get answers, the workers deflated tyres of two Toyota Elanda Hormy vehicles, which were being driven by their employers and confiscated car keys, threatening not to release the vehicles until they got paid.
Cleopus Mapungo, who led the 83 workers, who are each owed an average of $600, said the Chinese company terminated employment contracts of all its employees on November 25 and since then has been failing or neglecting to pay outstanding wages.
“We just want our money and we are not going to release these cars until we get our money. As workers we have information that these Chinese guys are leaving the country on December 12 while some have already left, so if the matter is not addressed now it might just be too late for us,” he said.
Representatives of Jilin Hou Yuan Metallurgical Furnace Burden Co Ltd, who addressed the workers at the bank, said that they were only going to pay them off once they receive payment from Zimasco.
“We had come to the bank to check if Zimasco had deposited money into our account so that we could pay you what we owe, but that money has not been deposited,” the unnamed representative said.
But workers would have none of it, with Joseph Masombo accusing his former employers of refusing to attend meetings at the labour courts for conciliatory meetings.
“You will give us our money today because we have been waiting for you at the labour courts since Monday and you have been playing truant with us, but today since we have you, we won’t let you go,” he shouted.
Many companies continue to struggle meeting employee wages and salaries owing to a failing economy, which has seen company closures leading to many losing their jobs.
Zimasco itself has been struggling to pay its workers and has started a massive downsizing exercise, which has seen the largest chrome smelter cut production to nearly 25%.