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Twenty-Three contract workers are embroiled in a labour dispute with their employer, Metro Peech and Brown Wholesalers, over the company’s refusal to engage them on a permanent basis. The workers are claiming to have worked for the company for more than five years under contract conditions and are now demanding to be engaged on a permanent basis in terms of the Labour Act.

Workers’ chairperson Mr Takunda Mugwadi of the Metro Peech and Brown Wholesalers Waterfalls branch told The Herald yesterday that workers were protesting against the company’s policy of continually demanding them to sign periodic contracts.

“As workers we want permanent contracts to ensure job security,” he said.

Mr Mugwadi said contracts for workers at the Waterfalls branch expired on April 30 and nothing was communicated to them until May 14 when management set new two month contracts for them.

“We are not going to sign the two- month contracts because they ignored us for two weeks without giving us any contracts so we assumed that we were now permanently employed by the company,” he said.

One of the workers said he had worked for the company for over five years and deserved to be given a permanent job.

“We have worked for the company for close to five years and our management is violating the Labour Act, so we are not going to accept the contracts,” he said.

When contacted for comment, Metro Peech human resources manager Mr Mashavira Mashavira said he was puzzled as to why the workers went on strike at a time the company was expanding and opening new branches.

“It is really surprising that some of our workers suspect that we want to terminate their contracts at a time when we are expanding and opening new branches across the country,” he said. “We have always protected their jobs even when we had only three branches as compared to the 11 we now have.”

Mr Mashavira said the delay in giving the workers new contracts was due to the fact that a manager responsible for the issuance of the contracts was away on business in South Africa.

“We appealed to our employees both from a legal perspective and from an employer-employee perspective and our case is now before the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and we are hoping that whoever is wrong may be aised accordingly so that we can find the way forward,” said Mr Mashavira.

Antonio and Dzvetero Legal Practitioners, who are representing the workers, have written a show cause letter to the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare over the dispute.

Metro Peech and Brown is a wholesale distributor with 11 branches across the country and employs more than 500 workers.

Source : The Herald

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