A British company which took over the Cold Storage Company last year has put the government in a tight spot after it paid peanuts to workers that it said it was laying off on behalf of the government.
According to agreements that the workers signed in March, a worker who had served the company for 41 years was, for example, was to be paid a severance package of $17 466 at the end of June. This is only US$210 at today’s rate.
Another with 12 years’ service was to get only $4 968, about US$60.
A foreman with 20 years’ service was to get $21 480, about US$260.
Boustead Beef, which was described as a British investor that was going to invest US$130 into the ailing Cold Storage Company over the next five years, said it was requested to retrench the workers on behalf of the government on 1 February 2020.
The retrenchment letters titled “agreement of settlement” were between the Republic of Zimbabwe/Cold Storage Company and the employee.
The agreement said the workers were being laid off because the “new company will have to constitute a new structure and new employment terms and conditions in line with the best practices if international corporate organisations”.
Boustead Beef, whose front man Nick Havercroft is a former tobacco farmer in Zimbabwe, said it signed a Joint Venture Agreement with the Zimbabwe government in January last year but it has up to now refused to show workers a copy of that agreement.
A statement issued by Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa after a cabinet meeting on 14 May last year, however, said Boustead Beef would do the following:
- raise and invest a minimum of US$130 million into CSC over five years, being for both capital expenditures and working capital for the business;
- pay off CSC financial debts totalling US$42 530 597;
- pay rentals of US$100 000 per annum during the first five years of the concession agreement;
- take over and run the management of the following CSC ranches for an initial period of 25 years: Maphaneni; Dubane; Umguza; Chivumbuni; Mushandike; Willsgrove; and Darwendale;
- take over and run the management of the following abattoirs for an initial period of 25 years: Bulawayo; Chinhoyi; Masvingo; Marondera; and Kadoma; and
- take over and manage for an initial period of 25 years, the Harare, Gweru and Mutare distribution centres and residential properties of CSC.
Lands and Agriculture Minister Anxious Masuka told Parliament last week that Boustead Beef had failed to meet the performance parameters agreed with the government so the government was in the process of reviewing the agreement so that the CSC could get back to what it used to be.
Masuka was a member of the CSC board when the government negotiated the agreement with Boustead Beef but sources say the board was sidelined.
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