Suncrest Chickens, a division of CFI Holding's Crest Poultry Group (CPG), last Friday introduced short working hours for its employees citing financial challenges. The decision to institute short working hours was communicated to the workers in a notice dated November 23, 2011.
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.
The United Food and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe has since expressed concern at the notice in view of the fact that 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 and two days later it issues a staff notice reducing working hours.
"We are concerned by such companies that mislead the Government and workers especially after they have benefited from the Distressed and Marginalised Areas Fund," he said.
Mr Mutero also expressed shock at the notice as it 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.
"The NECs are no longer impartial because they are now openly advancing the interest of employers," he said.
He added that another CFI subsidiary Victoria Foods had also applied for exemption from increasing wages yet it was producing goods 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 to 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.