CSC workers go for 4 years without pay
CSC-BOUSTEAD Beef employees are in limbo, with their employer yet to pay them salaries backdating to 2019 when the company promised to invest at least US$130 million over five years to revive the defunct Cold Storage Company (CSC).
Despite the promise, Boustead Beef, a British-registered shelf company which had a nominal balance sheet of £1, has invested little into the operation despite seizing control of itself CSC’s vast assets countrywide — with staggering salvage value — only to collect rentals from the properties without injecting capital.
The meat processor’s properties now being leveraged for borrowings and rentals include large farms and cattle ranches, houses, abattoirs, and distribution centres dotted around the country.
This has put the CSC properties at risk of being sold off separately for profit for equity investors who have put nothing into the deal – asset-stripping — since they are now deemed as private belongings.
After signalling to invest in the CSC in 2019, Boustead Beef promised to retain workers previously employed by the CSC.
However, in February 2020 at least 140 workers formerly under the CSC saw their contracts terminated, with some being retired, while others, especially top management, were forced to resign.
The remaining middle management and permanent employees were sent on forced leave for the months after being told that the company would be refurbishing the Bulawayo plant.
In October last year, the ministry of Labour’s Retrenchment Board refused to give the green light to the retrenchment by Boustead Beef, beaming a ray of hope to the workers.
“In terms of retrenchment, the process was done, but they did not follow the right procedure. Apparently, the Retrenchment Board did not give the thumbs-up on the retrenchment board. What had happened is that some of the workers were not there, hence they could not sign (the retrenchment) for themselves.
“The retrenchment package was also an issue in question. So, the Retrenchment Board did not approve that the retrenchment had been done. As we speak, not even one person has been given a retrenchment certificate.
“There is also a recent document from the Retrenchment Board nullifying the retrenchment. The other issue is that we were told that exports were supposed to resume in the first quarter of 2023, but as we speak nothing has been done yet,” CSC workers who spoke to The NewsHawks said.
In the letter dated 5 October 2022, the ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare said: “The Retrenchment Board did not issue any confirmation to the Cold Storage Company (CSC). There were issues raised in terms of Section 12D and 12C, hence the file was returned to CSC to rectify the anomalies.”
Workers’ efforts to take the legal route have been cast into further doubt, with the CSC’s corporate rescue practitioner, Vonani Majoko, suspended by Boustead Beef.
“Our challenge is that the company has been put under corporate rescue. Workers cannot do any litigation or go to court, because the company is under corporate rescue practitioner. We can only engage the practitioner.
“The practitioner has been suspended over allegations that he was doing some criminal activities. As it stands, we cannot go anywhere. We are between the hard rock and the horns.”
Despite the letter from the labour ministry, Boustead Beef is maintaining that it has no workers.
“If you go to the investor, they are claiming not to have any workers. We cannot do anything because the issue is with the courts. There are outstanding salaries and remittances that are yet to be paid. Those things have not yet been done. As we speak, our pensioners are getting nothing at all, but they were contributing to Old Mutual, among others, but nothing has been done.
“There was an amount which the investor, Boustead Beef was supposed to foot, which is over US$300 000, so pensioners could start benefitting from the pension fund. Nothing has been done to date,” the workers said.
Several attempts to get a comment from Reginald Shoko, a consultant with CSC-Boustead Beef, and Isaiah Machingura, a senior manager, were fruitless.
The company has missed its targets to start exports in the first quarter of 2023. In February, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) Holdings disconnected power supplies to the company over a ZW$24 million (US$27 220) bill at the company’s Bulawayo Beef Abattoir.