HomeLocalFarm workers accuse employer of abuse

Farm workers accuse employer of abuse

In separate interviews, employees from Bemba Farm said management were unprocedurally sacking workers, especially those engaging in union activities.

 

“Workers are being dismissed without any discussions and Zanu PF youths are called in to throw them away,” one employee said.

“The youths facilitate the removal from the farm of all employees whose contracts have been terminated and transport them during the night.”

The 700 workers who are earning the national employment council approved wage of US$55 per month for general agriculture, have since last year been agitating for the higher agro-wage. They argue that the farm is improperly classified as it also has interests in piggery, milling and honey processing, among others.

The agro wage currently stands at US$80.

“Sometime last year, we formed the farm’s first workers’ committee with the help of unionists but the farm owner was not pleased, resulting in the dismissal of all those involved in unionism,” Guidance Chipere said. “In my case, the farmer just called me to his office and told me that he no longer wants me on his farm.

“I had been employed at the farm for two years but he just handed me US$700 without explaining how he arrived at the figure.”

Chipere alleges that the Zanu PF youths transported him on a rainy day and dumped him by the roadside in Murehwa.

His property and family were soaked by heavy rain, leading to the death of his one-year-old child a few days later, he claims.

Johannes Mfiri alleges he was sacked on January 4 for encouraging workers to join the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers’ Union (Gapwuz).
Although employees said many have been affected in a similar way, Gapwuz’s Marondera branch said it has only handled 18 such cases since July last year.

“A man (Cleopas Kundiona), whose company provides security services at the farm, threatened that those seen going to the unions will be drowned in a nearby dam like what happened to many people in 2008,” another employee said.

The unionists said they have also received death threats from Kundiona whom they allege presides over the “throwing away” of workers.

But Kundiona, who said he is also spokesperson and legal advisor to Francois Smit, owner of the farm, said unionists were manipulating the workers and trying to extort the farmer.

“We have since sued Gapwuz Union, their representatives and some of the workers for US$1 114 500 being compensation for damages caused during an illegal strike they organised at the farm last year.

“One of the unionists is also facing a charge for trying to extort US$4 000 from Mr Smit saying if he gave him that amount, he would stop the strike”.

Kundiona said management has since applied for classification of the farm but before that happens, the status quo regarding everything, including remuneration, will continue as advised by the NEC last year.

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