Former workers of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), who have been camping at the company's headquarters for more than two weeks demanding outstanding salaries, are vowing to stay put until they get their dues.
The GMB head office in Eastlea in Zimbabwe's capital, has almost become a home for thousands of disgruntled former workers.
The former workers, who were dismissed last year in unclear circumstances, are owed salaries backdating to 2014. They have braved the rains and scotching heat to drive their point home.
The axed employees have formed an organization called Former GMB Workers Union.
President of the union, Stephen Machaya, told Studio 7 they will only leave the GMB premises only when their grievances have been addressed.
“We are not dispersing because we have not changed our position. We told them that we want our full salary arrears because the $310 they deposited into our accounts does not make sense. If we do not come here these part payments are not made.
"They paid them without us agreeing. We no longer want to come here. This should be the last time we are here so we should get our full payment."
Machaya claimed that GMB was peddling falsehoods following a statement the company released Tuesday alleging that it has been paying the workers a monthly allowance of $300 since their dismissal.
“This is not true that they have been paying us. If it was the case we would not be here. It's seven months down the line since we lost our jobs and they should have paid us 7 times by now. Let them prove that they paid us. They are lying to the nation.”
Stella Rangwani, another former worker, said it has been tough staying in the open and small tents for the past two weeks.
Some former workers have set up makeshift shelter at the GMB headquarters. (Photo: Patricia Mudadigwa)
“Our situation is very tough like right now you can see it is raining and we are just kept outside here. We are here for all our dues we worked for. We were not paid since 2014 and we have nowhere to go. Our property has been thrown out by landlords so we just need our monies. The management is too ignorant and they do not respond to our needs.”
She urged the government to intervene, noting that some families camping at the GMB headquarters have children, who are too young to understand what is going on.
Phillip Samanja, another former worker told Studio 7 they have been locked outside the GMB premises and as a result they now do not have access to ablution and water facilities.
“They are locking their gates. We tried engaging them but they do not want to listen to us and our needs. Until they give us all our dues, we are here to stay. We are surprised that they actually spoke to the media about the $310 they deposited into our accounts as if we agreed on it.”
In a statement, GMB said they had no resources to pay the former workers and also acknowledged that the disgruntled former employees were expected to disperse after receiving $310 each that was paid on February 16th while the organisation was looking for more funds.
The former workers are owed about $4.7 million in net salary arrears. GMB also claimed that they have been paying the former workers outstanding monthly salaries. The former workers have dismissed these claims as wishful thinking.
The camping former GMB workers claim that they have been locked out of the GMB premises. (Photo: Patricia Mudadigwa)
A coalition of Human Rights Organisations, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, has also released a statement calling upon GMB to respect the Zimbabwe constitution, which clearly states that every person has the right to fair and safe labour practices and to be paid a fair and reasonable wage.
The Forum further urged GMB management to constructively engage the former workers as a matter of urgency in order to find an amicable solution to the crisis.