Load-shedding hits tobacco processing workers hard

Abigail Mawonde Herald Reporter
LOAD-SHEDDING has hit employees in the tobacco industry amid revelations that Tobacco Processors Zimbabwe is deducting hours lost during power outages from workers’ salaries.At times TPZ sends workers home up to a time when electricity is restored. The company has gone as far as incorporating the deductions in the workers’ contracts of employment, torching off a storm with the employees.

The Zimbabwe Tobacco Industry Workers Union national organising secretary Mr Emson Sibanda wrote to the chairman of the Tobacco Miscellaneous Employees Association (TMEA), Mr Terrence Kwaramba on Monday, raising concern over what he termed unfair labour practices by TPZ.

“We write in connection with the above matter whose unfolding is disgusting as it has very bad impact to the National Employment Council graded employees who have been sent home by TPZ management on occasional load-shedding by ZESA, meaning to say except for staff employees all NEC employees will not be paid as from about 10 o’clock in the morning of April 27, 2015.

“Section 4 of Statutory Instrument 85 of 1993 sub clause (7) prohibits the actions of your member TPZ who has sent workers back home without pay and benefits,” read the letter.

Mr Sibanda said his union was also unhappy over the decision by TPZ to amend workers’ contracts to include a section on disruptions like load-shedding.

The new clause 2 in TPZ’s workers’ contracts now reads: “You shall be required to work 45 hours a week and a maximum of 195 hours per month. You shall only be remunerated based on the actual hours you have worked during the month or any part thereof. This means that if the work schedule is stopped, interrupted or affected by such processes over which the company has no control, like load-shedding by ZESA, amongst other things, then no remuneration shall be paid in respect of the time or period affected by those stoppages or interruptions. If you are in a prescribed occupational category in terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreements which cover the company, your hours of work may vary from those mentioned above.”

Yesterday Mr Kwaramba confirmed receiving communication from Mr Sibanda over the matter.

“I can confirm receiving their letter but I have not managed to talk to their human resources manager as yet.  It is difficult for me to act on it as I am a human resources manager for another company which happens to be their competitor,” he said.

“I am not formally entitled to be dealing with their human resources issues unless it is issues to do with trade unions and collective bargaining which affects the industry as a whole.”

TPZ human resources manager Mr Samson Mugumisi yesterday confirmed the development.

“Do you know the extent of the problem we are facing? Right now we have gone for three days without Zesa (electricity). We have not had Zesa since Monday. That arrangement is not new. We put that provision (in the contract) to safeguard ourselves. You send people away, when Zesa comes back you call them back. We are being practical about the situation,” he said.