Central Province Permanent Secretary, Edwin Zumbunu has given Kabwe Tannery a one month ultimatum to improve workers conditions of service.
Mr Zumbunu has also directed management at the facility to legalize the employment contracts, by ensuring that the documents are attested by government.
He was speaking during the surprise visit to the facility this morning, where he had gone to verify the information that his office received concerning the poor conditions of service.
He said information which reached his office indicated that the company, which required employment capacity of 250 workers, only had 16 permanent workers and eight causal workers.
He questioned why the company which exported high standard leather products to Europe was so mean as to employ only 24 workers, when it had adequate financial capacity to employ even more than three hundred workers considering the high profits generated from the business.
The Permanent Secretary added that it was unfortunate that, despite the money that the company was making, it resorted to harsh treatment of workers by forcing them to work overnight under low salaries and without incentives and protective clothing such as masks, safety boots, helmets, and gloves.
He ordered the Production Manager to ensure that the protective clothing are provided promptly and also ensure that a packet of milk is supplied to each worker daily.
The Permanent Secretary further advised management to look into the sanitary conditions saying the surroundings were too dirty and posed a great danger to the health of the employees, who risked contracting diarrhea diseases such as Cholera, Dysentery and Typhoid.
Mr Zumbunu said he was aware that two workers died at the company’s pump house last year after they slipped from the ladder, drowned and accidentally drunk the dirty water composed of harmful chemicals.
He, therefore, advised the company to adhere to the labour laws by providing an enabling environment for its workers and develop a social corporate responsibility, and that apart from their workers, the town of Kabwe equally needed the support of the company as a way of giving back to the community.
And earlier, the Labour Officer, Tondeka Mwila who went through the employment contracts expressed disappointment at the company’s use of illegal contracts.
Mrs Mwila said it was unlawful for the company to use employment contracts that were not attested by the Labour Office and, therefore, instructed the company managers to ensure that all contract forms are attested by her office or else, the company would be charged.
She also questioned the mode of remuneration used by the company, saying the K761, 000 which was the current salary for a permanent worker was misplaced because initially, the minimum wage for a casual worker according to the guidelines in the Labour Act, was K419 000 of which when transport and housing allowances are added should sum up to K761,000.
She, therefore, advised the company to consider revising the salaries for permanent workers which she said should not be the same as the casual workers but should be slightly higher and that lunch allowances or meals should be provided for both permanent and causal workers, including those working in the night.
Mrs Mwila also advised the company managers to charge workers who shunned wearing protective clothing when it had provided them.
This was after she found a worker in the finishing department operating without safety boots, a mask and gloves even when the items have been provided by the company.
Meanwhile, Kabwe Tannery Production Manager Rajah Rajah has assured the Permanent Secretary that management will take his concerns into consideration and that it will ensure the needed items and favourable conditions are provided within the given period.
Mr Rajah said his company will also make necessary steps to ensure that the environment under which the workers operate is habitable.
He said he will contact his Directors immediately so that a meeting to harmonize the issues can be held and that the Permanent Secretary will be invited so that the matter can be resolved once and for all.ZANIS