EMPLOYEES at Meikles Ltd are up in arms with management over the company’s reluctance to assist them purchase 10% of the listed diversified group’s shares in compliance with the country’s indigenisation policy.
Representatives of the workers’ committees from Meikles Hotel, Meikles Stores, Tanganda and TM appeared before a parliamentary portfolio committee on indigenisation and empowerment, which was yesterday chaired by Zanu PF senator Cleveria Chizema.
In 2011, Meikles Ltd shareholders approved the setting aside of 24 million shares for its workers through the Employee Share Ownership Trust as part of their broad-based participation in the implementation of indigenisation and economic empowerment programmes.
The 24 million shares approximate 10% of Meikles Ltd’s current issue shares.
Meikles Hotel Catering workers chairperson Rodney Mutinhiri said there were a number of challenges workers faced since the launch of the employee share ownership trust.
Mutinhiri said: “From the start of the programme we have never had a chance to participate actively on the decisions concerning the trust. There was a deed of trust that came out but we were not consulted and there was no input at all from the workers.”
“We were told that we won’t be able to participate; instead we would be represented by the original trustees who are people taken from the company’s managerial positions, that is human resources, finance… — who have the company’s interest at heart and not ours.”
He bemoaned the lack of consultation by the trustees, when they borrowed money from the Old Mutual Meikles pension fund.
“The Trustees went ahead without consulting the workers on where they would get the money to buy the shares. They borrowed from the Old Mutual Meikles pension fund and took US$1,4 million and bought eight million shares,” Mutinhiri said.
“We were told that we would get the shares only when all have been bought. Right now we have nothing. Instead we have a loan taken from our pension and the interest has now accumulated to US$1,6 million while a third of our shares are just lying dormant. This has workers with no shares and no pension.”
Mutinhiri said Meikles executive chairperson John Moxon promised to assist the workers in buying the shares once the money (about US$97 million as revealed to them by Moxon), which they are owed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
However they have not been updated on the situation.
Chairperson of Tanganda Tea workers committee Blame Dhonza said it was clear that Meikles Group was not interested in complying with the indigenisation policy.
Dhonza said: “There is a lot of dilly-dallying and dragging of issues. We appeal to the responsible people to make follow ups and put up mechanisms that indeed Meikles complies because as workers we have no powers.”
There was no representative from Meikles Group management to challenge the claims.