AT least 1,000 workers from different companies were fired in one day yesterday with Zimasco reportedly showing 648 of its employees the exit door. The mass job cuts are part of a scramble by companies to fire workers without benefits as they capitalise on last Friday’s Supreme Court ruling.
The Supreme Court, in a case involving Zuva Petroleum and two former managers, ruled that companies can give three months’ notice to terminate workers’ contracts even without benefits.
The ruling opened floodgates as several companies including Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, publishers of The Daily News, and Sakunda Logistics sent workers home. According to reports, an estimated 3 000 workers have been laid off in one week.
In a statement after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Prisca Mupfumira said the government had resolved to urgently amend the Labour Act to avoid further job losses.
“Government has resolved to amend the relevant provisions of the Labour Act in the shortest possible time in order to restore equilibrium in the market. Meanwhile, government appeals to employers to exercise maximum restraint in terminating contracts of employment on notice, pursuant to the Supreme Court ruling,” she said.
Sino-Zimbabwe Cotton on Tuesday reportedly fired over 400 workers and used the ruling to justify the drastic action. Zimasco workers, who spoke to NewsDay, said the chrome mining and smelting company yesterday gave them an option to take the company’s preferred compulsory retrenchment plan or risk getting nothing.
a company official, Clara Sadomba, professed ignorance over the development, the affected employees maintained that they had been sacked.
“We were given an option to take their preferred retrenchment package, that of two weeks’ pay multiplied by the number of years that one has served,” one of the employees who requested anonymity said.
“Around the end of 2013, the employer began to cite unviability of business and offered voluntary retrenchment where people were going to be given two weeks’ salary multiplied by the number of years served and less than 100 people took that.”
The Zimasco employees claimed in May and December 2014, the company put up measures to avoid retrenchment whereby employees were supposed to serve for the next 12 months while negotiations for compulsory retrenchments were underway.
“Others before us have been given one month’s salary multiplied by the number of years served and that was what we were pushing for when this Supreme Court ruling was made,” the employee said.
Zimoco has also given a number of its workers notice which will run until October 31. Mobile phone operator Econet Wireless Private Limited also joined the bandwagon.
Sakunda Logistics employees said they refused to sign the termination of employment contracts because they were reportedly owed about five months’ salary arrears.
President Robert Mugabe has been urged by labour bodies and human rights organisations to act to stop the job losses.