THE cash-strapped Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has ordered all its 3 600 employees to go on a compulsory two-week-long unpaid leave each month, starting next month as it battles a crippling financial squeeze.
In a circular dated December 18 and addressed to all staff members, GMB deputy general manager for human resources Sibongile Muchirahondo said the parastatal was facing financial problems hence the decision to cut down on the number of working days.
GMB has not paid its employees for the past four months and also owes $37 million to farmers who delivered grain in the 2013/2014 summer cropping season. The parastatal, which prides itself on being the granary of the country, has many branches dotted around the country.
Part of the circular reads: “The Grain Marketing Board is currently experiencing serious financial challenges resulting in accrual of salary arrears and statutory obligations for the past four months.
“This has therefore adversely affected employee welfare.”
Muchirahondo said other factors that had affected GMB finances include, non-remittance of handling fees and storage charges by government, depleted working capital for commercial activities, uncompetitive selling price due to high maize procurement pricing, competition from imports, and an unaffordable salary/wage bill of around $2 million per month.
She said other high-fixed strategic grain operation costs such as rates and electricity bills against a shrinking financial resource base had also affected GMB’s operations.
“In view of the above and in terms of the provisions of section 12D of the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01) on compulsory unpaid leave or short-time work as a measure to avoid retrenchment, employees shall be proceeding on two weeks’ compulsory rotational unpaid leave monthly effective 2 January 2015 until further notice,” Muchirahondo said.
“Notice of seven days shall be served to individual employees before proceeding on compulsory unpaid leave. Employees shall receive half of their monthly gross earnings and benefits commensurate to days worked.”
Muchirahondo pleaded with depot managers throughout the country to implement the new directives and maintain a workers’ register indicating that each employee was working for two weeks each month.
Last week, GMB employees rejected their employer’s proposal to give each of them five 50kg bags of maize to offset the September salary arrears , prompting management to reverse its decision.
The workers yesterday accused their management of financial mismanagement and being insincere over the salary issue, saying some top GMB officials recently bought themselves 30 top–of-the-range Toyota D4D off-road vehicles , at a time when the company was reportedly facing serious cashflow problems.