BY SILAS NKALA
Auto Tyres Zimbabwe (ATZ) company, formerly Dunlop Zimbabwe, is embroiled in a labour dispute with 150 former workers who were retrenched between 2015 and 2018 over unpaid wages.
The workers said they were owed US$518 000 in salaries and exit packages.
The same firm has another standing dispute with over 1 000 employees who resigned between 2017 and 2018 when the company experienced serious operational challenges, but are yet to receive their packages and benefits.
“Those who were retrenched in 2015 obtained a court order compelling the company to pay them their dues, but to date, nothing has happened. We, who were retrenched in 2018, took the matter to the retrenchment board, where it was ruled that those of us owed $2 000 should be paid within three months, while those owed above US$2 000 should be paid within 18 months,” a workers’ representative said on condition of anonymity.
The workers accused the company’s judicial manager, Shepherd Chimutanda, of siding with the company.
“Even now, he is saying he has found another investor and what we discovered is that the investor he refers to is the sister company to the old investor. All the workers who were retrenched in 2015 and 2018 are owed outstanding salaries and packages,” the former worker added.
In response to questions emailed to him, Chimutanda confirmed that the former workers were yet to be paid their monies.
“Their dues are now pegged in RTGS$ rather than US$ due to changes in the recent February 2019 monetary policy,” Chimutanda said.
“There is no investor who has been frustrated and to the best of my knowledge, either before judicial management or after. I have since re-engaged NUVO Rubber Company and they are flying from South Africa to meet me tomorrow (yesterday) afternoon. I am also currently in talks with NSSA [National Social Security Authority] concerning their renewed interest in investing in ATZ. Unfortunately, reckless utterances, which are not true, can only serve to scupper the judicial manager’s work in trying to attract investment into the business and resuscitate the factory,” he said.
“There is no denying that the current operating environment, especially the shortage of foreign currency, makes it difficult to definitely give a fixed date.”
Before its collapse, the company used to export its products into the region. It has an installed capacity to produce 6 000 tonnes of tyre products per year.