More than 300 Suncrest Chickens workers staged a peaceful demonstration in Beatrice yesterday against management's decision to put them on short working hours. Suncrest Chickens is a subsidiary of Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed CFI Holdings, which owns the Crest Poultry Group, Crest Breeders International and Victoria Foods.
More than 400 workers at Crest Breeders also staged a similar demonstration over the same issue on Thursday last week.
United Food and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe chief secretary Mr Adonis Mutero said the move by Suncrest was illegal.
"This year, Suncrest applied for exemption to increase wages and it was granted. How can they now introduce short working hours when they were exempted from increasing salaries?"
Mr Mutero said Suncrest had imposed the short working hours despite provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
It stipulates that there has to be an agreement between the workers and management on the working hours. Mr Mutero said short working hours could only be introduced after exhausting negotiating channels like the Works Council, NEC and arbitration.
"Suncrest workers have been coming to work for the whole of December, but suddenly had their salaries cut by 25 percent. Managerial workers' salaries were cut by 50 percent," he said.
Mr Mutero said CFI had been lobbying Government to ban cheap chicken imports from Brazil. The company argued that it had the capacity to supply the local market.
Mr Mutero said CFI also refused to award a seven percent salary increase to Victoria Foods workers while cutting their salaries by 25 percent.
The decision to have shorter working hours since December 1, 2012 was reached 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.
The broiler houses were commissioned on November 21, 2012.
CPG managing director Mr Tapera Mpezeni said the houses would increase breeding capacity by 35 percent from 460 000 birds to 620 000 birds.