30 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Suncrest Workers Cry Foul On Being Placed On Short Time

Suncrest Chickens -a division of CFI Holding's Crest Poultry Group (CPG) - has issued a staff notice, informing workers of the introduction of short time working hours from December 1, 2012.

The United Food and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe has expressed concern at the notice by CPG especially after CFI last week indicated that it was increasing its chicken breeding capacity.

UFAWUZ secretary-general Mr Alfred Mutero said yesterday they were concerned that the announcement amounted to unfair labour practice.

"Only last Wednesday the company announced in the press that it was increasing production. However, two days later on Friday, it gave a staff notice concerning cutting of working hours from December 1 until further notice," said Mr Mutero.

"We're concerned by such companies that mislead the Government and workers after benefiting from Distressed and Marginalised Areas Fund (DIMAF)."

According to the staff notice dated November 23, 2011 the move to cut the working hours was due to the financial difficulties facing the company.

CPG managing director Dr Tapera Mpezeni and the production director Mr Langton Mautsa signed the notice.

"The financial difficulties facing the company is a well known position to all and evidenced by low kills (sic) and resultant delays in payment of wages and salaries. The company has been left with no option but to institute short-time working hours as guided by the Labour Act Section 12D," read the notice.

He said that employees would be required to work certain days in a month, which would be communicated to them through their supervisors.

Mr Mutero expressed his shock at the notice, which came after the company had just been given an exemption of increasing wages by the NEC for food industry.

"It certainly looks like companies are now conniving with NECs, which have become a platform to legalise the employers' illegal agendas," said Mr Mutero.

"The NECs are no longer impartial and openly advancing the interest of employers."

He said that another CFI subsidiary Victoria Foods had also applied for exemption from increasing wages yet production was around the clock.

"Victoria Foods has even given a notice that it is going to cut salaries by 25 percent, yet some workers were transferred from Suncrest Chickens because of increased production," said Mr Mutero.

Earlier this month, CFI commissioned some environmentally controlled broiler houses at its Glenara Estates, which would see its breeding capacity increasing by 35 percent.

The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange conglomerate invested US$2,6 million through its division - CPG - from loans it got from the Government's DIMAF and PTA Bank.

Dr Mpezeni said that they could now breed about 620 000 broilers at any given time from 460 000 birds, which are slaughtered every six weeks.

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