Companies apply to cut working hours

SEVERAL furniture companies have applied to the National Employment Council to introduce shorter working weeks as viability challenges take their toll on the sector, businessdigest has learnt.

By Kudzai Kuwaza

This comes at a time when at least 1 400 workers have lost their jobs since July last year through company closures and retrenchments. The sector has been hard hit by a number of problems which include the liquidity crunch characterised by the acute cash shortages in the market, decline in productivity and the flooding of cheap imports on the market.

Most workers in the sector have been going for months without being paid their salaries as employers battle to stay afloat.

“Furniture companies have applied to introduce shorter working hours with some looking at introducing three day working weeks and shift work among the various forms of shortened working hours,” an official at the Zimbabwe Timber, Furniture and Allied Trade Union said this week. “The national employment council will approve their application because their financial statements, which they sent with the application shows that they are doing very well.”

The official said that most furniture companies are pinning their hopes on Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 which restricts imports of a number of goods into the country. The introduction of the statutory instrument has been widely resisted, torching protests against the move.

“Companies whose productivity has been affected are looking to SI 64 for salvation,” the official said. “They hope that with the restriction of imports will benefit them with the general public buying more of their products as a result to improve their bottom line.”

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

Numerous companies have employed several measures that include pay cuts to remain operational as the economic crisis in the country deepens.

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