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Zimbabwe Labor Rebukes Gov't for Inaction on Worker Abuse by Chinese Merchants

Zimbabwe's labour union condemned the government Friday for failing to protect local workers against abusive Chinese employers operating in the country.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, adding a voice to the national discord, said the government chose to protect the Chinese merchants at the expense of mainly local black workers, despite abundant evidence of gross labor violations.

"This issue has been presented even to the ministry of labor, but no one in government wants to talk about it," ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo told a news conference in Harare.

Matombo said the Chinese employers, accused of physical and emotional abuse, behaved “like first class citizens, treating Zimbabweans as second class citizens.”

In some instances, the merchants are said to refuse to pay workers, and when they make a police report, it is alleged, they are fired from work; at times even assaulted.

The abusive behavior has continued unchecked because the Chinese enjoy full protection of the inclusive government, said secretary-general Raymond Majongwe.

He expressed concern at reports of sexual abuse of Zimbabwean women, adding the complaints will take front-burner status in their Workers' Day commemorations next week.

The MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a brainchild of the labor movement, also weighed in calling on government to "protect citizens from abuse."

It cited an incident this week where "more than 30 construction workers at the National Defense College were barred from protesting by armed soldiers over illegal termination of their contracts and non-payment of their wages."

Encouraged by Harare's so-called Look-East-Policy, which favors mainly Beijing, the Chinese continue to settle in Zimbabwe, opening up factories and investing especially in the construction industry.

But it is their abusive nature, lack of work ethic and the flooding of the Zimbabwean market with substandard goods that have earned them a bad name among locals.

And as long as government does not censure them, argued Japhet Moyo, secretary-general of a rival ZCTU formation, the abuse of local employees will only get worse.