HomeBusiness DigestWorkers' unrest at Mazowe Estates

Workers’ unrest at Mazowe Estates

Roadwin Chirara

MAZOWE Estates, horticultural concern Interfresh’s main subsidiary, is beset by fresh problems after workers this week downed tools to protest poor remuneration.

P>The workers are demanding a re-grading to a salary range for agro-based employees instead of the current farm workers salary classification.

Workers classified as general farm workers are paid $192 000 per month while those employed in the agro-based sector are paid $289 656,25 per month.

The stalemate between the employees and the company is reported to have spilled over to the National Employment Council who ruled in favour of the workers.

The decision, however, has not gone down well with senior management at Interfresh, leading to an appeal being lodged with the National Employment Council for Agriculture.

Operations on the estate ground to a halt on Wednesday over the salary dispute.

Interfresh chairman Lishon Chipango confirmed the strike and the disruption to operations at the Mazowe Estates.

“We are aware of the strike and we have sent the chief operations officer with a labour relations officer to the estates,” he said.

Chipango said there was no reason for the employees resorting to industrial action when the matter was before the National Employment Council for arbitration.

“The matter is before the NEC and we are awaiting the determination of the council on what action the company should take next,” said Chipango.

On whether the company had appealed an earlier decision handed down by the employment council in favour of the workers, Chipango said they were contesting the judgement.

He however downplayed the action by the workers, saying only 25 employees were involved in the industrial action.

“It’s only the juicing factory that is on strike as far as we know. This constitutes only 25 workers out of over 3 000 employees on the estates,” Chipango said.

Interfresh was last week raided by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe amid allegations that it had failed to account for thousands of dollars in foreign currency.

The irregularities involving cash receipts have seen the company’s chief executive Evan Christophides leaving his job.

Contrary to Chipango’s claims that Christophides was staying on for six months after tendering his resignation, he is said to have immediately severed ties with the company.

The central bank has for the past month been pursuing every outstanding foreign currency remittance issue in a desperate bid to squeeze forex to buy fuel, food and other imports.

Interfresh is heavily involved in citrus production and marketing to the local and international markets. It also produces flowers for the European market.

The company has however fallen victim to the land reform programme, losing some of its productive land to settlers in the Mazowe area where it has its main citrus plantations.

The company has also undergone several board and management changes since a consortium linked to former Kingdom Financial Holdings executives took over the group.

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