BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
THE Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) has expressed concern over the disruptions on tobacco farming activities by the employee union which is visiting farms, causing illegal strikes resulting in complete shutdown of operations.
ZTA in its latest report accused the Progressive Agriculture and Allied Industries Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Paawuz) of causing havoc in the tobacco farming communities mainly in Mashonaland East province.
“We note with concern the disruptions to tobacco farming activities mainly in the Mashonaland East farming areas, particularly in areas of Harare South and Beatrice by the employee union, Progressive Agriculture and Allied Industries Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe which is visiting farms, without the approved processes being followed and causing illegal strikes on the farms resulting in complete shutdown of farm operations,” the ZTA report notes.
“Some of the farms affected are among the largest producers of tobacco and other export crops, which will now be significantly cutting back on their production, hence jeopardising US dollar earnings for the country and employment opportunities and potential withdrawal of investors (contractors) support,” it said.
ZTA noted that appeals made at the appropriate levels, including with Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare had not yielded any action to get the union to stop the farm disruptions.
“We once again appeal to the authorities to reign in the actions of this particular employee union and any other union, not conforming to labour regulations as production and investors’ confidence is at risk,” reads the report in part.
But Paawuz secretary-general Raymond Sixpence hit back, accusing ZTA of impoverishing workers.
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“They are not following the labour laws, they don’t want to provide workers with protective clothing. They also pay them a paltry salary of $195 a month among other labour malpractices. Surely, who can survive on $195 a month these days? They are fighting with the labour law not the union,” he said.
“We have tried to engage Rodney Ambrose (ZTA chief executive officer) over these issues but he doesn’t want to cooperate. They are only worried about production at the expense of workers. Zimbabwe is open for business not for labour exploitation.”
Sixpence singled out two farms in Mashonaland East for practicing labour exploitation.
“As such, ZTA should not generalise,” he said.
Sixpence said ZTA should not involve government departments such as the army and the police on labour issues.