Local millers at each other’s throat

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Harare (New Ziana) – A fight has erupted among players in the local milling industry with some disgruntled stakeholders lobbying the National Employment Council (NEC) for the Food and Allied Industry to stop recognising the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) as a member.

The aggrieved stakeholders, mainly small millers, want GMAZ, among other things, to be barred from NEC industry negotiations, saying they had no locus standi.

In turn, GMAZ, the largest miller representative body, is accusing a rival association, which represents small to medium-sized milling companies, of sponsoring dissent, and is threatening legal action.

According to a letter by the disgruntled stakeholders to the NEC dated February 16, 2022, the Tafadzwa Musarara led GMAZ was allegedly participating illegally in the NEC, a negotiating platform comprised of trade unions and employers.

“We the duly registered milling industry sub-sector Undertaking, hereby wish to affirm and re-affirm the following positions with regards to GMAZ participating in the milling industry subsector Undertaking: (that) GMAZ is not a bona fide registered employer association (and that) the NEC Secretariat in continuously dealing with GMAZ is acting unlawfully, ” read part of the letter seen by New Ziana.

“The duly registered parties jointly agreed that GMAZ forthwith will not be participating/acting in any matters regarding the milling industry subsector undertaking.”

In an interview, the United Food and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe, (UFAWUZ) confirmed the contents and position of the letter to the NEC.

“The NEC constitution recognises a multiplicity of registered employer associations and registered trade unions. In terms of its constitution where there are two or more registered trade unions, seats to the subsector undertaking, in this case, Milling Industry, are shared proportionally through verified membership for both trade unions and employer associations.

“The employer association or the trade union has to be registered with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare for it to apply and be admitted into the NEC Food and Allied Industries. It appears GMAZ falls short of this requirement in that it is not registered as an employer association to represent interests and rights of employers in the milling industry subsector undertaking,” it said.

“We have no official record of GMAZ admission to the NEC. What is on record is information in respect of the now-defunct Grain Millers Employees Association which was registered in 1999 way back before GMAZ was born. This is a separate entity from GMAZ. Given the circumstances then we do not know who smuggled GMAZ into the NEC.”

Approached for comment, Musarara said: “I respectfully suggest that you get our status from the Ministry (of Labour). For more details, I (also) refer you to our lawyers.”

GMAZ legal representative, Nomazulu Matigwe-Mahenga confirmed the attempt to oust GMAZ, but rubbished the contents of the stakeholders’ letter to the NEC.

She explained that, while indeed GMAZ was not an employer organisation, there was an employer organisation for all the milers that GMAZ represents called the Grain Millers Employer Organisation of Zimbabwe (GMEAZ) that registered with the Ministry of Labour in the 90s.

“When the leadership of GMEAZ decided they wanted to start importing grain, they realised they could not do so as they were not a registered company, but just an employer organisation for purposes of negotiating salaries. So they came together and came up with the idea to form a company called GMAZ that they use as a tool to import grain.

“The leadership remains the same at the employer organisation for purposes of negotiating salaries and also remains the same with the leadership at GMAZ, the company they use to import grain. So there then became, I think, interchanging of names when the parties went for negotiations with the NEC at times the NEC would prepare documents and write GMAZ instead of GMEAZ, there was interchanging of names but the people were the same,” she said.

GMEAZ has since also written to the NEC, complaining that the Small to Medium Millers Association of Zimbabwe (SMMAZ) was acting contrary to an NEC directive at an aborted February 7 meeting.

At the meeting, according to the GMEAZ letter, the NEC directed that aggrieved parties approach the courts after a disagreement arose over the sharing of seats at the NEC and the presence of GMAZ.

“We call upon your competent office to call SMMAZ to order and to put the record straight especially with the unions because it is misrepresenting the outcome of the meeting which you chaired. SMMAZ should forthwith stop misrepresenting to the Unions as its behaviour is criminal and illegal, the trade unions should be directed by the NEC as it is the regulating body over all parties. If the behaviour and illegal action does not stop, we want to have it on record that our client will approach the court for relief against the rogue elements that continue on the illegalities,” read part of the GMEAZ letter also copied to SMMAZ and UFAWUZ.
New Ziana

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