Government is in a desperate bid to contain retrenchments amid indications Labour minister Prisca Mupfumira has drastically reduced the number of times the Retrenchment Board meets to process applications by companies to lay off workers from once a week to once a month.
The board used to meet every Thursday to consider applications by companies looking to retrench workers until May this year when the minister changed the frequency of meetings to once a month.
“What kind of board meets weekly?” Mupfumira queried in an interview with businessdigest this week. “There is no board which meets like that. It is costly because they are drawing allowances weekly. For now they will meet once a month but eventually I want them to meet quarterly.”
This effectively means that government wants to delay the retrenchment processes and make it tough for companies to retrench, but employers say this will increase the backlog of retrenchment applications.
Mupfumira said employers should not be preoccupied with retrenching workers, but with finding ways to avoid the laying off of workers.
“Employers should think positively and not just think of throwing workers on the streets. That is just laziness. It is not on the agenda,” Mupfumira said.
The labour minister declared that she would end the “retrenchment madness’” which has resulted in more than 8000 workers being retrenched between 2014 and March this year.
Mupfumira has tightened retrenchment requirements concerned by the huge number of applications by employers that have besieged the board. Among the requirements is to disclose details of fees the board of directors get and the difference in the wage bill after the retrenchment exercise has been implemented. Another requirement is that retrenched workers remain at the workplace until they have received their packages in full.
Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe executive director John Mufukare told businessdigest they will soon meet the minister to persuade the minister to change her stance on the issue.
“ We are going to have a meeting with the minister and try once more to convince her that slowing down retrenchments administratively is counter -productive because it will lead to the collapse of companies,” Mufukare said. “It might be a very short term measure but in the long run it is completely counter-productive. We must let companies re-engineer themselves so that they remain sustainable.”
Speaking at an Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries retrenchment meeting last week, a member of the Retrenchment Board, Isaac Mazanhi said the reduction in frequency of meetings would increase the time in which applications will be processed to as long as four to five months, while not dealing with the root causes.