MARONDERA: Hundreds of workers at ARDA Estates here have gone for over six months without receiving salaries with the state-owned firm’s management claiming it could not secure cash from local banks to pay the wages.
Workers at ARDA Mushangwe Estate traditionally received their pay in hard cash but this has since stopped as the country continues to experience worsening cash shortages.
This has forced them to approach the National Employment Council (NEC) responsible for the agricultural industry in attempts to force the payment of their outstanding wages.
The impasse has also affected production at the estate as the disgruntled workers have started boycotting work.
NEC Mashonaland East regional manager, Edmond Kupara confirmed this week that his organisation recently intervened into the salary dispute at ARDA, which is part of the agriculture ministry run by Joseph Made.
A resolution was reached that the employees should open bank accounts to enable them to receive their salaries through the banks.
Kupara said thousands of other workers at various farms in Marondera such as; Nhimbe Fresh Exports, Sable Range, Mitchell and Churchill recently faced similar challenges with NEC coming in again to prescribe the same solutions.
These estates mainly concentrate on farming produce destined for the export market.
"Farm workers used to be paid their salaries in cash, which has become a challenge now as there is no cash in the country,” Kupara told NewZimbabwe.com.
“We are now urging both the farmer and the employees to come to terms such that the worker is able open a bank account.
"This is an advantage to the employee as in some cases, farmers are failing to pay them hiding behind the current cash shortages as the workers have no bank accounts.
“Once farm workers open their individual bank accounts, there is no way an employer can cite cash shortages as an excuse as their salaries are deposited directly into their accounts.”
The NEC for the Agriculture Industry handles all labour and industrial issues in the agricultural sector.
"Last time, we had to intervene at Sable Range, Mitchell and Churchill farms after the workers had gone for months without salaries with the employer claiming to have no cash.
“We fortunately won the case through the courts and all the workers are now receiving their salaries through the bank," said Kupara.