SOME 50 workers employed by a subsidiary of the government-owned Cold Storage Company (CSC) have gone without pay for about three years, it has emerged.
The workers were transferred to CSC after its Bulawayo-based subsidiary, Wet Blue, closed in 2012 but they say they have not been paid since.
Wet Blue processes hides and skin and is a unit of the former Cold Storage Commission which has since been commercialised by the government.
The 54 affected workers claim they have not been getting their salaries, save for small amounts advanced to them as transport costs.
"It is a miracle how we have been surviving because since March 2012, we have not been paid our dues," said Innocent Kawara, one of the affected workers.
"What we have only been getting from the company is just monthly transport allowances which are less than $10 per month. Some of our colleagues have died because of stress associated with debts. Some have migrated to rural areas."
Following the placement of Wet Blue under Judiciary management last month, CSC has ordered the workers to revert back to the leather processing company and assume their previous duties.
"What we are demanding is that CSC should pay us first all our dues before we go back to Wet Blue. We have worked for CSC as slaves for the past three years and we cannot be discarded like dirty clothes," said Bright Muvirami, the secretary for the workers committee.
He said most of the workers were frustrated and no longer interested in working under the prevailing economic situation.
"The workers are saying they would rather have their terminal benefits than working under a company which is under judicial management. As long as CSC is in limbo, it will be very difficult to resuscitate Wet Blue "he said.
The government is struggling to find a partner to revive the former meat processing giant as suitors are being turned off by the $22 million debt hanging over the company.
CSC was, at one time, billed as the largest meat processor in Africa, handling up to 150,000 tonnes of beef and associated bi-products a year, and exporting to the European Union.
However, mismanagement and persistent outbreaks of foot and mouth diseases halted exports in 2001, affecting viability.
When reached for comment on his mobile phone, CSC chief executive officer, Ngoni Chinogaramombe did not answer his phone but instead responded with a text message "Sorry, I am busy".