GRAIN Marketing Board (GMB) former employees dismissed using the three months' notice ruling by the courts last August have appealed for government's intervention over non-payment of salaries and benefits owed by the struggling parastatal.
The more than 300 former workers from the GMB's provincial depots have been staging a peaceful demonstration since Tuesday at the company's head office in Harare.
They vowed to stay put at the premises until they get their outstanding salaries and benefits.
Among other issues, the workers allege that while GMB management deducted pension and medical aid from their salaries, they never benefited from the medical aid fund.
They also claim that the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) has no record of GMB workers' contributions as no remittances were made.
Tinashe Zodzi of Masvingo GMB told New Zimbabwe Friday that they felt betrayed by the government.
"We went to war to fight the whites thinking our fellow blacks would change things for the better but today we are now being ill-treated by those in power
"Our only hope is on Agriculture and Mechanisation Minister Joseph Made whom we think might resolve the issue as management has disregarded our efforts to make progressive negotiations," said Zodzi.
Dairai Murahwa of Rusape in Manicaland added: "We are in pain.
"Our children are starving and not attending school. The pain of knowing that those who remained at work got their salary arrears."
"The management is treating us like dogs, refusing us access to ablution facilities and clean water to drink," said Murahwa adding they would stay put at the premises until they get their dues.
Disappointed with the government
Promise Benhura, from Bulawayo, said he was disappointed that government had failed to intervene in the dispute which has been dragging on for more than a year.
"The government has failed us because it has the money to rescue the parastatal but it is just reluctant to do so for reasons we do not know," lamented Benhura.
Another ex-employee Ester Gumbo, a mother of four from also Bulawayo, said she is the sole bread winner, adding three children she looks after are sitting their O' Level exams this year.
"If I am not paid by GMB all of my late sisters' children will not write exams this year," she said almost in tears.
Steven Machaya, president of the GMB Workers' Union, told New Zimbabwe that 1,264 workers were laid off by the parastatal last year and most of them are living in abject poverty as they cannot afford food, school fees and rentals.
"We do not have money. Rentals are high and most of us have not paid rentals for close to a year now since the company owed us before our dismissal," he said.
Most of the workers who travelled from as far as Masvingo, Bulawayo, Mutare and Hwange said they did not have money to return to their homes and were now running out of food.
Most said they were being helped by residents from the nearby Eastlea suburb and some Human rights organisations who have promised to take legal action against GMB.
The GMB Public Relations Officer Joseph Katete said the issue is being looked into but would not give further details as the Acting General Manager Simba Mhonde was said to be in a meeting.