The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Over 400 Crest Breeders Workers Stage Demo

More than 400 workers at Crest Breeders International in Beatrice on Thursday staged a demonstration against management's decision to put them on short working hours. Crest Breeders is a subsidiary of Zimbabwe Stock Exchange conglomerate CFI Holdings, which owns the Crest Poultry Group, Suncrest Chickens and Victoria Foods.

The decision to put the workers on short working hours from December 1, 2012 came less than a year after CFI received US$2,6 million in loans from the Government's Distressed Industries and Marginalised Areas Fund and Afreximbank.

CFI invested the loans in constructing some environmentally controlled broiler houses at its Glenara Estates that were commissioned on November 21, 2012.

CPG managing director Mr Tapera Mpezeni said during the commissioning that the houses would increase breeding capacity by 35 percent from 460 000 birds to 620 000 birds.

The workers, who were singing revolutionary songs and chanting empowerment slogans, besieged the administration block at the farm.

They had to be restrained by members from the worker's union from taking the law into their hands.

The workers -- some with more than 30 years service -- said that CFI's decision to put them and their counterparts at Glenara Estates on short working hours was criminal.

A memo signed by CPG managing director Mr Mpezeni and production director Mr Langton Mautsa last month informed them of the company's decision to cut working hours from December 1, 2012.

"We were shocked by the decision and now my salary has been reduced to US$30 per month which cannot sustain me and my family," said one of the irate workers, Mr Reuben Chikombero.

He said that the primary school at the farm charged US$35 school fees, while the secondary school fees were pegged at US$45 per term.

Another worker, Mrs Susan Negondo, said they had not received their December salaries despite working for the whole month.

"We're being evicted from the farm compound and don't know where to go without being paid our packages. Management even had the temerity of cutting off water supplies from the compound," said Ms Negondo.

A member of the workers' union, Mr John Manyatera, blamed the National Employment Council for betraying the workers and "dining with the employers".

"A member of the NEC (name supplied) told management here that workers intended to attach property to recover their terminal benefits. Management then started removing property including cattle," he said.

United Food and Allied Workers Union chief secretary Mr Adonis Mutero said the move by CFI was criminal after the company recently benefited from the Government's Dimaf. "CFI has also placed Victoria Foods and Suncrest workers -- who are covered by our union -- on short time," said Mr Mutero.

He said the move by such public listed companies was criminal after telling the Government they were distressed in order to receive funding.

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