WORKERS at the Lobels Biscuits Belmont plant yesterday staged a demonstration citing a litany of complaints which include sexual harassment, nepotism and low wages among others.
The disgruntled workers said they were forced to engage in a demonstration as a last resort after numerous efforts to engage the management had failed.
When the news crew arrived at the scene, the management had reportedly closed themselves inside the building with hordes of placard-waving workers dancing and singing outside the premises.
The workers were baying for the head of the chief operating officer Andrew Dinhidza who they accused of being the chief architect of their problems.
Chief among the accusations, the disgruntled workers accused Dinhidza of employing his relatives and children in most of the senior positions at the company in a development that they said has also fuelled sexual harassment of female employees.
“We are experiencing quite a number of problems here, ranging from poor working conditions, ill-treatment, sexual abuse, low wages and failure to backdate our salaries from 2020. However, nepotism and sexual abuse seem to have worsened our plight here. Dinhidza has given all managerial and supervisor posts to his relatives and sons who do not even qualify to occupy those positions. That’s why we are saying he should go,” said one worker who refused to be named for fear of victimization.
“There is a lot of sexual abuse and victimization here. It’s hard to keep your job, because there are too many conditions or else you lose your job. If they fire you for you to come back they ask you to meet in town for talks so that they ask for sexual. We are tired of being used, Dinhidza should go,” said one livid female worker.
Part of the demonstrators were former employees who were fired for being part of the company’s workers union which was pushing for better working conditions.
“We were dismissed for knowing our right, we stood for the workers, and we were dismissed without any benefit and pay. I was fired for engaging other stakeholders like the Gender Commission and the Zimbabwe Federations of Trade Union, because we knew our rights. I am happy the workers have finally got tired of this abuse and they have stood for their rights,” said Proper Mahachi, former Lobels Biscuit workers union chair.
Another former employee, Judith Moyo, who joined the company in 1969 said she was part of a group of workers who were targeted by Dinhidza and the Managing Director Clinton Lecluse who accused them of taking their grievances to the media.
Zimbabwe Federations of Trade Union spokesperson Pardon Mangena who was also present at the demo said it was sad that the employer has failed to give an ear to the workers’ plight.
“We were approached by these workers raising a number of issues. One of the most outstanding issues was that of nepotism, where a whole CEO employs relatives and son, without even advertising the posts. Promotions are just being done without following proper procedures and most of them do not qualify for those posts.
“I am made to believe that since 2020 there has been a huge backlog of salaries and the employer is not forthcoming on the matter.
There are issues of sexual abuse where many women have raised alarm but nothing has been done to address the matter. Surprisingly the Managing director has failed to investigate all these matters that have been raised here. It’s sad that such a big company with over 600 workers can be run like a tuck shop.”
The confectionery company lost which R16.7 million (about US$1.1 million) and US$80,000 in cash when armed robbers raided its offices in March is reportedly deducting 15 percent of the workers’ salaries to cover that loss.
“There is also the issue of the 15 percent that was deducted following the armed robbery that took place. It was deducted from their salary and it was not clear why the employer would then want to deduct it.
It was arbitrary, it was done against the will and consent of the workers. In one way or the other it would imply as if it is the workers that stole the money,” said Mangena
Lobel’s Biscuits management could not be reached for comment.