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Mine Workers Fret Over Covid-19 Risk At Work Place

Mine workers are at high risk of contracting the Covid-19 as most mines are yet to adhere to stipulated guidelines in the fight against the spread of the virus, a worker union has said.

President Emerson Mnangagwa on Sunday reprieved the mining industry from lockdown and emphasized on strict adherence to safety rules.

However, the Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Workers Union (ZDAWU) claims that mine employers have not put in place safety measures for their employees.

“In sight of these developments and given the blanket reprieve to the Mining Industry to scale up operations, we have written to the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare appealing to be considered to monitor employers’ compliance in mitigating the spread of COVID 19 across all mines in Zimbabwe,”

“For a mine to be exempted ,they were required to apply through the Chamber of Mines or Zimbabwe Miners Federation making a commitment that they will observe the lockdown regulations that were set like decongesting the work place ,observance of respiratory hygiene, personal hygiene, social distancing at work as well as in transit to and from work,”

“We noted that the conditions set to operate were not fully observed,” ZDAWU said in a statement.

Some mines were earlier granted permission to operate during the initial phase of the lockdown and the Union says it noted the workers concerns and asked authorities to entervene buy coming to observe the situation at mines but their request was never granted.

“The union wrote to the Minister of Labour on 4 April 2020 requesting to be granted essential service status because we were receiving complaints from members that nothing has changed even with the conditions set to operate , unfortunately our request was declined,” it added.

It further claims that even before the Covid 19 pandemic some mines were failing to provide basic protective equipment to its employees and with the added responsibility most employers are not in a position to put in place measures that protect workers against the pandemic as set by the Ministry of Health in line with the World Health Organisation guidelines.

This publication could not be able to fact check the situation on the ground at various mines but mining industry sources close to 263Chat said the situation was not the same across the industry with some mines fully protecting their employees but however agreed that some mines were facing serious protective equipment challenges.

Some mines are sending home employees on unpaid leave in violation of the provisions of the Labour Act, a development which will antagonise industrial relations and subsequently lead to disruptions in productivity on the mines, observers warn.

Efforts to contact the ministry of labour for a comment on this issue were futile.

The mining industry constitute most of the key foreign currency earners for the country (gold, diamond, platinum, chrome) and failure to protect miners during this Covid-19 pandemic could spoil Zimbabwe’s economic fortunes.

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