Problems at Ingwebu Breweries Zimbabwe

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JUDGING by drinking habits of residents of the city of Kings and Queens, one would conclude with confidence without thinking twice that those that brew the holy waters have been thanked with a fat thirteenth cheque for a job well done: then think again, because you are certainly wrong!

An acrimonious wrangle has erupted between the Bulawayo Municipal Commercial Undertaking (BMCU) which trades as Ingwebu Breweries workers and their employees over not only payment of their bonuses but meagre salaries they get every month, we reveal today.

Our investigations, whose findings have been confirmed by the municipality's top management, have revealed that some workers at Ingwebu Breweries, especially technicians earn a third of what their counterparts at the BCC earn despite being on the same grade.

Further, Ingwebu workers have not been given their bonuses despite the fact that their business concern is one of the council's cash cows.

The troubled company has also opened the door for workers who want out of it and offered exit packages.

We have it on good authority that some of those that accepted the early retirement got their "hand shakes" on Thursday from a local bank.

Ingwebu Breweries are producers of Indlovu Calabash and Shake-Shake, which affordable and popular.

Recently workers at Ingwebu Breweries were shocked by a notice, which this paper has at hand, plastered at their work stations reading thus in full:

"The organisation continued to operate under unprecedentedly difficult conditions throughout the year (2011).

"As a result, some 14 beer outlets had to be franchised and the other 13 outlets reverting to the Bulawayo City Council.

"Because of this unpleasing organisational performance, there will be no bonus this year (2011)," reads the notice in full which is signed by Mr Themba Khumalo the Human Resources Manager.

The workers, who all requested anonymity for fear of internal reprisals, say they are not happy with the way management has handled the whole issue as they were never briefed on the latest sad development.

They also argue that it was unfair for their bosses to continue paying them a third of their colleagues, some unqualified, at the BCC earn.

"We cannot run a company as big as Ingwebu Breweries via the notice board. When it is matters that concern increasing production they call us for marathon meetings and when it is time to pay us they put notices at boards and just vanish," said a worker.

Another added:

"I know a colleague of mine who is a technician at BCC, they spend even a week without doing a thing and we work 24 hours. The guy earns between US$1200-US$1400, I earn between US$350 –US$400, but I do more work.

"This is unlawful, unfair and is tantamount to slave-driving. Management seems to be happy with the way things are going, maybe they have their bonus, who knows," he said rhetorically.

Efforts to get a comment from Mr Khumalo were fruitless, however contacted for comment on the matter Bulawayo Major, Councillor Thaba Moyo said:

"I will not be able to answer your questions. Talk to Dumisani Sibanda (the Board Chairman) he can give you all the details but you know the situation is not ok at BCC this time," he said.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr Sibanda said:

"This is not news. When we have the news we will tell you next year. Those people that are complaining must know that Ingwebu has not been doing well since dollarization and we have not paid bonuses since then.

"We have been avoiding discretionary costs. We saw that it was not a prudent business decision to pay out bonus when we are not making enough money, this is business and we don't use goodwill to run it," he said.

Mr Sibanda added that it was not that the company does not want to pay bonuses or good salaries but that the economic operational environment was not enabling such kind gestures.

"It is not that we don't want to pay our workers good wages and bonuses, no, it is because we are operating on a shoe-string budget and we cannot afford such discretionary costs," he said.

He could however not be drawn to comment on the salary discrepancies between Ingwebu Breweries technicians and BCC technicians.

All has not been rosy at the BCC recently workers went on strike demanding salaries and bonuses for the month of November.

The strike came hard upon the council's failure to pay for its electricity and to satisfactorily deliver essential services.

Thus, the BMCU called potential businesspeople interested in running its outlets dotted around the city's high density suburbs to run business for it in the said concerns under a franchise scheme.

The local authority said bidders should be Bulawayo residents with not less than 10 years as council ratepayers and be able to support the initial investment start-up capital of not less than $15 000.

Targeted outlets included Nketa 8 Beer Garden, Hlanganani Bar Lounge, Mahadebe Beer Garden, Matshobana Beer Garden, Nkulumane Beer Garden, Phekiwe Beer Garden, Pumulani Beer Garden, Mandlovu Beer Garden, Khongo Beer Garden, Totobisa Beer Garden, Masilela Beer Garden, Sidudla Beer Garden, Woodville Tavern and Mondela Beer Garden.

Bulawayo residents, civic society and political activists have cried foul about the BCC‘s glaring failures arguing that it shows how "useless" the opposition dominated council has been to the city.

The council is made up of councilors from the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Prime Minister Mr Morgan Tsvangirai.

The Minister Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development Cde Ignatius Chombo has said councils from refrain from imbedding themselves in politics and focus on service delivery.

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