Work related accidents surge

HARARE - Work-related accidents in Zimbabwe have surged by 30 percent in the third quarter as trade unionists blame government’s reluctance to monitor Chinese businesses.

Labour unionists say there has been a recent spate of worker abuses in Chinese businesses which are escalating mainly because government has turned a blind eye.

Speaking at a conference on safety and health at the workplace in Harare yesterday, George Nkiwane, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) said the increase was proof of government’s tolerance with the Chinese, which he said is costing workers. ZCTU is the country’s oldest and biggest labour federation.

“The Chinese make up the majority of employers at the moment and their attitude toward the country’s regulations is worrying.

“It is this negligence on their part and the government’s reluctance to monitor them that has led to the leap in work-related accidents,” Nkiwane said.

Nkiwane said injuries have spiked from last year’s 2 280 in the third quarter to 3 258 for the same period this year.

A review of safety and health national performance in the last five years reveals that there were 72 fatalities and 6 117 serious occupational injuries in 2007. In 2008 there were 65 fatalities with 3 810 serious injuries.

In 2009, unionists recorded 64 fatalities and 3 122 serious accidents while there were 4 410 serious injuries, 90 of which turned fatal the following year.

Last year saw a decline in work -related deaths, which stood at 75 although there was an increase in serious injuries at 4 111.

“This year’s figures have disturbed the steadily declining trend,” Nkiwane said.

Bilateral trade relations between Zimbabwe and China have increased by 20 percent to $533 million dollars in the first five months of 2012, compared to the same period last year, according to Chinese ambassador Lin Lin.

Nkiwane predicted a gloomy year end if government did not take action on the Chinese.

“The Chinese are forever flaunting operational safety and health regulations contributing to the staggering statistics,” he said.

Economic analyst Christopher Mugaga head of Research at Econometer, a regional economic research company condemned government’s reluctance with the Chinese saying this is leading to the fleecing of the country’s resources.

“It is hard to monitor small Chinese businesses from a fiscal point of view, and government has not been following up on these, rendering Zimbabwe as the weaker partner,” he said.

“Real sector investment is non-existent. It is misleading to celebrate an increase in bilateral relations between the two countries as this increase is coming at the expense of Zimbabwe,” Mugaga said.

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