—–More than 400 construction workers at the multi-million Kwacha Itezhi Tezhi hydro-electric power project have downed tools at their work site claiming, unlawful union contributions and continued poor conditions.
At 07:00 hours today, instead of starting work, the workers marched to Sino hydro offices and declared an indefinite strike claiming that Sino hydro, the company that has been contracted by Itezhi Tezhi Power Corporation (ITPC) to build the power station, has been deducting more than what is prescribed as contributions to their newly formed union.
“On our pay slip K100 is deducted as union contributions when we are supposed to contribute only K24. We are paying more than what is prescribed,” Eric Chidakwa, representative of the workers said.
On Saturday the workers had staged a sit-out and blocked the road leading to the canteen for Chinese workers while chanting messages against the Human Resource Manager, a Mr Gao.
The workers, who almost turned violent, only dispersed after ITPC and Sino hydro addressed them.
The workers complained that over-deductions have further reduced their disposable income which is already low, adding that the Chinese firm has also not been adjusting their wages.
“Our wages have never been adjusted from time the project started. A person who starts work today and the one who started in 2010 are getting the same regardless of all the changes that have occurred in terms of the economy,” Mr Chidakwa said.
Mr Chidakwa complained that despite government directive that only Zambians should practice human resource functions, Sino hydro has allowed a Chinese national, a civil engineer by profession, to carry out human resource functions.
Meanwhile, Itezhi Tezhi Power Corporation and Sino hydro officials confirmed the wrongful over-deductions after examining some of the pay slips from workers.
Commercial manager Zhijun He and ITPC officials have assured the workers that the money will be reimbursed.
Mr He said that his company record is very good as it clearly shows that it has been paying the wages of the workers without delay.
He further said the company pays workers above the minimum wage and provide protective clothes as prescribed by Zambian labour laws and international conventions.
The workers today marched to the Sino hydro offices in Kataba and vowed that they will not return to work until they are addressed by the Permanent Secretary for Central Province.
A check by ZANIS at the worksite, which is usually a hive of construction activities, revealed that the place was deserted.