07 Aug 2013 08:10
KAYENGONA, 07 AUG (NAMPA) - Workers at the Uvhungu-Vhungu irrigation farm who have been working without employment contracts for almost four years, might finally sign their contracts by the end of this month.
The delay was caused by the fact that the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry had to first appoint a managing director to run all Green Scheme projects countrywide.
Government took over the management of the Uvhungu-Vhungu project in May 2010 after it terminated its contract with the previous service provider, Chris Lewis.
Workers have however been complaining that since Government took over the project, they have not signed employment contracts, and alleged that their working conditions have worsened.
The project is said to have experienced a relatively high turnover, with the number of workers having decreased from 47 in 2009 to 32 this year.
The ministry some three months ago however appointed Petrus Uugwanga as the managing director for Agriculture Business Development (AgriBusDev), the ministrys business division which will run the Green Scheme projects.
During a visit to the project on Wednesday, the AgriBusDev Board members, including its managing director, updated the 32 workers of the Uvhungu-Vhungu project on developments regarding their employment contracts.
AgriBusDev Chairperson Anna Shiweda pleaded for patience with the employees, saying that by the beginning of September this year, they will all be in possession of employment contracts.
The new AgriBusDev company structures, grading and associated job description for each position have all been approved.
The AgriBusDev Board Chairperson indicated that once they have signed the employment contracts, the success of the Uvhungu-Vhungu project shall depend on their hard work to ensure food security and self-sufficiency for the country.
Please remain patient, the issue is receiving our utmost attention, by first of September all the employees will be on new contracts, she noted.
The Board members are currently finalising the appointment of a farm manager for the Uvhungu-Vhungu project and this reporter reliably established that the Board will hold a meeting tomorrow where the appointment of a farm manager will top the agenda.
The Board members toured the Green Scheme project, where they were briefed on development around the project by outgoing farm manager Linus Tashiya.
Agriculture, Water and Forestry Minister John Mutorwa had on several previous occasions pleaded with workers who had been complaining of working without contracts at the irrigation farm, to be patient.
Mutorwa earlier indicated that the ministry wants to run the project on professional business principles and in July this year, he jokingly noted that employees who may have deserted the project will not be allowed to return.
The employees never enjoyed any employment benefits such as pension or medical aid, and the only deduction from their salaries were Social Security Commission (SSC) payments.
Some employees were earning as little as N.dollars 400 per month, which was given to them in cash in envelopes.
The disgruntled workers claimed that their status as non-permanent employees made it impossible for them to borrow money from banks.
The workers were over the moon upon hearing that they will finally sign their employment contracts, with one of the truck operators, Petrus Ndumba saying the process was long overdue and they are now looking forward to signing on the dotted line.
The Uvhungu-Vhungu, is one of the six Green Scheme project in the Kavango Region. The others are the Shadikongoro, Shitemo, Ndonga Linena, Sikondo and Musese projects.