Roadwin Chirara in Odzi
BARELY three months after the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) took over operations at Kondozi, employees at the estate have downed tools pressing for better wages
and working conditions.
Workers at the estate are complaining about their current living conditions which they said have worsened since Arda took over.
The workers are currently getting $3 250 a day which they say is totally insufficient in view of the current economic situation.
They said management of the estate had promised to revise their wages to $5 000, an amount which many still felt was not enough.
“I have been working here for a long time but these people are using us and paying us nothing for it. How can they say they are doing us a favour by paying us that amount,” said a disgruntled worker.
“We are made to work hard but they seem not to be interested in giving us anything for the extra effort that many of us put in. I used to get a bonus but from my understanding this has been removed by these people for reasons I really do not understand.”
However, estate officials threatened to cut their pay to $2 800 if the employees continued with the industrial action.
One employee, who claimed to be part of the workers’ committee, said the atmosphere had become tense after graduates from militia camps were brought onto the estate.
“They were brought here about a month or so ago and things have really changed because we no longer feel we can express ourselves without fear of being attacked by them. I can tell you, these boys are rough and they really will deal with you,” said one of the employees.
Workers said Arda was failing to grow some of the produce the former owners were growing.
“You can see for yourself, how can you be planting these kind of beans at this time of the year? We told them that it should have been done in winter, but they didn’t listen,” said an employee.
“We no longer have any exports because we have been told that our quality was not up to standard.”
The worker said they no longer had shifts at the sorting shed because there were no markets for the produce. He said before Arda came the produce was boxed and coded for the export market.
“We are currently just packing them in plastics and I understand it’s being consumed locally. You have seen for yourself that some of the trucks used to transport the produce are grounded at the workshop,” he said.
“We used to run a 24-hour sorting operation, employing hundreds of people but right now we are only operating one line out of five and its currently manned by less than 20 people.”
Another worker said most of the produce on the estate was what Arda inherited from the former owners.