Hundreds lose jobs in furniture sector

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ABOUT 400 workers in the timber and furniture sector have lost their jobs since December last year. This comes as the arbitrator in the wage deadlock between employers and workers in the sector awarded no wage increment for 2016, businessdigest has learnt.

Kudzai Kuwaza

The new job losses add to at least 1 000 employees who lost their jobs in the sector earlier last year as a result of company closures and retrenchments using the July 17 Supreme Court ruling that allowed employers to dismiss workers on three months’ notice without paying a retrenchment package.

The sector has been hard hit by a number of challenges which include the liquidity crunch, decline in productivity and the flooding of cheap imports on the market.

“Flair International (Pvt) Ltd closed down in December which left more than 150 workers jobless,” an official at the Zimbabwe Timber, Furniture and Allied Trade Union said on Wednesday

The official added: “Other timber companies have dispensed with their contract workers bringing the number of workers who have lost their jobs in the sector to about 400. It is a real bad situation.”

The official revealed that the arbitrator in the wage deadlock between employers and workers in the sector had early this year not awarded an increment in the minimum wage.

“As a union, we had taken the position that there should be an increment of 20% for the period of January to June and another 20% increment for the period of July to December,” the union official said. “The employers’ position was that they could not afford any increment and the arbitrator ruled in their favour.”

Cheap imported furniture from China, Dubai and South Africa has flooded the market crowding out local furniture manufacturers and severely reducing productivity as well as revenue margins.

Nearly 30 000 workers across various sectors have been rendered jobless as a result of the July 17 Supreme Court ruling, according to trade unions. Employers however argue that close to 5 000 workers were affected by the ruling and that the figures provided by the trade unions are grossly exaggerated.

However, government moved in to amend the law, removing the right of employers to terminate contracts on three months’ notice with Labour minister Prisca Mupfumira presenting the Bill in Parliament in August last year.

The amendments sailed thro-ugh parliament before President Robert Mugabe signed it into law to the dismay of business and labour, who feel their concerns were not addressed.

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