BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
WaverlEy Blankets has reportedly dismissed more than 300 employees as the fight over the control of the giant textile firm begins to take its toll.
The company is part of a sprawling business empire built by the late Victor Cohen, who died in 2017.
His children accuse their nephew Aron Vico of fraudulently taking over the companies, including Waverley Blankets and the fight has spilled into the courts.
A number of workers said they had been unfairly dismissed from the company following Cohen’s death and were given meagre packages.
Stannard Chinyani, who said he worked for Waverley Blankets for 19 years before he was dismissed, said he was given a $6 000 package.
Chinyani said the company forced him to surrender a car he was given by Cohen for his long service.
“If Cohen was alive I was going to get a decent package,” he said. “Cohen gave me a Mazda Bantam car in recognition of my long service, but I was surprised when I was asked to surrender the vehicle by the new management.”
Chinyani said when he asked why the car was being repossessed, he was told that he was being retired. He is planning to take his case to the Labour Court.
Floyd Ezekiel said he was dismissed after working for Waverley Blankets for 11 years.
“I left the company with nothing and this pains me after working for so much time with the late businessman,” he said. “Cohen used to take care of every one of his employees, he paid school fees for several disadvantaged school children and some have since dropped out of school because of lack of fees.”
The company’s new management is led by Vico, Laxi Boddapati and Marco Faccio.
Cohen’s daughters, Amanda Berkowitz and Belynda Halfon, claim that Vico, , seized control of their father’s empire through unorthodox means.
Berkowitz and Halfon say the company has been losing money through unclear circumstances and they cited a foreign currency deal that allegedly saw Waverley Blankets losing more than US$1 million.
“Our company lost US$1 million without shareholders and directors agreement and we can do nothing about it as the law is not on our side,” Halfon said. “Our money is gone, we are watching our inheritance go up in smoke as our hands are tied.”
Berkowitz said they had not received any money from the companies since their father died.
“We have received not a penny in dividends from any of our companies or any financial information pertaining thereto,” she said.
“They have simply heisted everything through fraudulent means and are flouting every law.”
Berkowitz said she was sad to see loyal Waverley workers losing their jobs. Vico refused to comment on the matter, saying some of the issues were before the courts.
“These issues are a family matter and I may not comment on some of the issues as they are before the courts,” he said.
“I will release a statement at the appropriate time.
Berkowitz and Halfon last month wrote a letter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa where they claimed law enforcement agents and the courts were shielding Vico.