Several employees and some who have been dismissed from Parmalat have accused the diary processing and distribution company of violating labour law in the manner it is handling disciplinary cases.

But the giant multinational corporation has bragged of having over 300 employees in Zambia who are treated in accordance with the local labour guidelines.

One of the employees who was dismissed from Parmalat narrated his case to News Diggers, saying many other people were suspended from the company without being told the offence they committed.

“You have done well to come on board because there are plenty people who have been treated the same way. So for my case, it was like witch-hunt. For me I was sick and I was put on injections for a week, so in the morning before going for work I would go for injections and then go for work after injections. Later on I was suspended and told that no, ‘we are investigating you’ investigating me for what? So I was on suspension from December 2016, then the discussions started in February 2017,” the victim narrated, showing some correspondence from Parmalat to this reported.

“Thereafter, I got another letter which they now started looking for faults in me. They said ‘no…during that time when you were away, we were investigating, we found people in Kabwata with products and then when we asked them, they said its you who gave them.’ then I said if they mentioned my name, let me know how the products went out of the gate? The driver who went with them, and if those people are there, I want to see them, to come and do an attestation to say ‘yes we found you, or you sent us’ but that was not done. Then they charged me with gross misconduct, gross negligent and something else which I can’t even remember.”

The victim claimed that his workmates were dismissed on the same day and locked up in police cells without giving them an opportunity to inform relatives.

“So later on after the hearing, I got a dismissal. So now the day when we were going to collect the dismissal letters, we were picked and taken to a police station which is outside the area. We were even told to say ‘we don’t want your relatives to know where you are’. So you can imagine we were taken to Matero area because Parmalat is in Matero area, we passed Arcades, in fact they were saying they wanted to take us to Chongwe. But as we were going to Chongwe, we made a turn and we were taken to that police station. Whilst we were there, and the letters were with us, we were asked to say if we were not happy, we were free to appeal within seven days,” narrated the ex-employee.

“But we saw it that they took us to the police so that we have no time for us to appeal. But fortunately enough when we explained ourselves properly to the police there, the police officer who was there assisted us with two plain papers and we wrote the appeal letters while we were in custody. And the officer in charge at the same police, a madam, was very plain and said ‘me I don’t want to be interrogated on this issue for the things I don’t know. So she started making noise to the people that had taken us there saying ‘you come and pick these people because me I don’t have any case against them’.”

And in a related case, another employee was indefinitely suspended without being told the offences committed.

According to a letter of suspension dated 28th November 2017 which was signed by the Commercial Manager of the company and was availed to News Diggers! the employee was suspended on “serious allegation” that were not mentioned.

“This serves to inform you that you are with immediate effect suspended from duty pending investigations of serious allegations against you. Take note that you will still be on full pay whilst serving the suspension pending investigations. Further, as a consequence of your suspension, you will not be permitted to engage in any company activities and interact with company customers. You will also not be permitted to come on company premises unless authorised to by the Human Resources Department,” read the letter in parts.

But when contacted for a comment, Human Resource Manager Sipiwe Mwaba bragged that the company had over 300 employees in Zambia who were treated in accordance with the local labour guidelines.

Responding to a press query from News Diggers, Mwaba said the company also had internal systems to allow any unsatisfied employee to escalate issues.

“Parmalat Zambia follows the company’s formal disciplinary and grievance procedures and also adheres to the local Zambian Legislation as its guideline in all disciplinary matters. We are proud to have been doing business in Zambia for the last 20 years with over 300 employees, contributing to the country and its people, and specifically to the development of the dairy industry,” stated Mwaba.

“As a multinational company, Parmalat highly values employee engagement – a good, professional, competent and motivated work force is vital to ensure that such a large organisation runs efficiently and everyone maintain the quality standards that make up this multinational brand. We also have internal systems to ensure that any employee who is not satisfied with his or her treatment can escalate issues. Parmalat has a worldwide reputation for professionalism, good practices and high quality products. This is of the utmost important to Parmalat and not be compromised.”