THE Grain Marketing Board (GMB) management has reportedly pledged to pay off workers’ outstanding salaries this month-end after the latter staged a one-day sit-in at the parastatal’s headquarters in Harare two weeks ago.
BY FELUNA NLEYA
The country’s grain reserves manager has been battling to pay its workers for past six months citing lack of funds, a situation that resulted in the employees storming their managers’ offices seeking a long-term solution to the problem.
“We all went back to our work stations after management came up with a payment plan to pay us,” workers’ union president Stephen Machaya said.
“They said they will give us our outstanding six months salaries in two months splitting it into two installments. The management told us that by February 28, they will have given us our outstanding salaries for the first three months then they will settle the balance at the end of March.Right now, that is the stage we are at and we are hoping that they will stick to their promise, failure to honour their promise, we will go back to collect our dues at the head office.”
At one time, the cash-strapped GMB ordered its 3 600-stong workforce to go on compulsory two-week-long unpaid leave, but the move was thwarted after workers appealed at the Labour Court.
This was after the parastatal had again offered to pay off the salary debt with 10 bags of maize for each employee, which the workers dismissed as a mockery.
In December, the parastatal’s deputy general manager for human resources Sibongile Muchirahondo told the employees that the parastatal was facing financial problems.
She said the parastatal owed farmers of the 2013/2014 summer cropping season in addition to the salaries and other recurring costs. The parastatal owes farmers $52,4 million for the grain delivered in the 2013/2014 summer cropping season.
She said other factors that had affected GMB finances included 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 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.