15 January 2013

Zimbabwe: CFI Dispute Spills Into Labour Court

THE dispute between Suncrest Chickens, Crest Breeders International and Glenara Estates - all divisions of CFI Holdings - and non-managerial workers over the introduction of short working hours has spilled into the Labour Court, with both parties filing different applications.

CFI group human resources director Mr Oswald Chikunda has applied for a show cause order against the workers who recently staged a peaceful demonstration.

The show cause order is for all the business units that had and are still engaged in collective job action.

CFI is seeking the express authority to dismiss en masse the more than 700 employees that took part in the strike.

The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed conglomerate, which also owns Victoria Foods and the Crest Poultry Group, had a similar situation over the years and took the same action to weed out elements they did not want.

However, 152 workers at Suncrest Chickens have also made an application for the payment of 25 percent of their salaries they claim was deducted from their December dues despite working for a full month.

The workers accuse CFI of contravening Section 12A (6) of the Labour Act that deals with salary deductions for workers that have been absent on days that are not public holidays.

The United Food and Allied Workers' Union of Zimbabwe is representing the workers.

Last month, the workers staged peaceful demonstrations in Beatrice against CFI's decision to put them on short working hours from December 1, 2012. CFI cited viability problems for the decision.

However, despite working full time for the whole of December, the workers were shocked when 25 percent was deducted from their salaries, while managerial staff had 50 percent deductions.

The decision to put the workers on short working hours 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 Dr Tapera Mpezeni said during the commissioning that the houses would increase breeding capacity by 35 percent from 460 000 birds to 620 000 birds.

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