1 500 workers lose jobs in agric sector

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MORE than 1 500 workers in the agricultural sector lost their jobs after their contracts were terminated on three months’ notice, businessdigest has learnt.

Kudzai Kuwaza

A July 17 Supreme Court ruling allowing employers to terminate the contracts of employees on three months’ notice has seen more than 20 000 losing their jobs as employers battle a myriad of challenges that include a debilitating liquidity crunch and a decline in productivity.

However, government moved in to amend the law, removing the right for workers to terminate contracts on three months’ notice with Labour minister Prisca Mupfumira presenting the bill in Parliament last month. The amendments sailed through Parliament before President Robert Mugabe signed it into law last week to the disapproval of business and labour, who feel their concerns were not addressed

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“Over 1 500 workers lost their jobs across the agricultural sector,” a General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (Gapwuz) official told businessdigest this week. “We are now looking at the Act and consulting our lawyers on the way forward.”

An official at the Zimbabwe Timber, Furniture and Allied Trade Union told business digest this week that 400 of their members were affected by dismissals using the Supreme Court ruling, with most of the affected workers being employees from TN Harlequin.

Meanwhile, negotiations in the tea sector ended with the agreement that the minimum wage remains at US$95, sources said. Employers had requested that the minimum wage be reduced to US$72 citing the harsh economic environment, which was flatly refused by the workers’ body.

“We eventually agreed that the minimum monthly wage remains at US$95 but quite a number of employers have applied to be exempted from paying that amount,” an insider revealed. However the dispute on the minimum wage in the timber sector remains unresolved. Employers are seeking to reduce employees’ minimum wage from the current US$150 to US$105, while the workers’ representatives are looking to maintain the current minimum wage.

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