The Food Federation and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe (FFAWUZ) has approached the Ministry of Labour and Social Services with an urgent appeal to get adequate personal protective equipment and other necessary amenities during the 21 day lockdown.
The workers in the food industry are among the essential services according to government definition of who qualifies to be working during the lockdown.
In their urgent appeal to labour ministry, the workers allege that they risk being exposed to the deadly virus as they are being made to work without the PPE.
“The fact that we are one of the most essential service provider and indeed in support of the 21days lockdown regulations pronounced by the President of Zimbabwe in order to fight against this global pandemic Covid-19.
“We are appealing to the government through your esteemed ministry to have a closer look in the Food industry since we observed that there are some employers who are seldom complying with prevention measures and general guidelines,” reads part of the letter.
The workers further stated that some of them have been placed on unpaid leave or and paid vacation leave during the lockdown period.
“This appears to be grossly unfair on the part of affected employees who are seemingly being punished and squarely blamed for the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences to the industry,” the workers said.
They further called on their employers to avail reliable transport services which will not expose them to the virus.
The government said it would only allow ZUPCO buses to move around during the 21 day period but the buses have been few for those who are allowed to go to work.
FFAWUZ also lamented that most of their workers were not paid in the period leading to the lockdown which saw panic buying and hording of commodities from shops leaving millions of peole who could not access their funds at the time stranded.
“It was brought to our attention that a section of employees in the food industry did not get their wages or are being delayed following the introduction of the lockdown.
“This implies that a significant number of workers could not get or access basic commodities thereby being further exposed to infection in pursuit of acquiring food stuffs. It is not clear whether the employers are deliberately withholding or delaying payment of wages or it is just a case of poor communication with responsible banks,” the workers alluded.
Although the lockdown is now midway through, adherence to the dictates as inscribed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been very difficult as most people across the country live on a hand to mouth basis.
This has made the fight against the coronavirus very difficult and exposes a lot of people, mainly those considered essential workers, to the risk of contracting virus.