Retrenchment Board rejects Border Timbers layoff plan

“Can you imagine paying someone whose package amounts to US$3000 over a period of two years?”

THE Retrenchment Board has rejected a proposal by Border Timbers to pay a retrenchment package to 19 of its workers over a period of two years, ordering the company to pay within a three-month period, businessdigest has learnt.

By Kudzai Kuwaza

There has been a flurry of applications to the Retrenchment Board since the amendments to the Labour Act empowering employers to pay a minimum of two weeks’ wages for every year served plus payment equal to three months’ notice.

This has been caused mainly by the deepening economic crisis characterised by a debilitating liquidity crunch as evidenced by the acute cash shortage and low capacity utilisation.

“Representatives from Border Timbers in the company of a lawyer said they could only pay the packages over a two-year period due to the serious viability challenges they are facing and they were told by the board that it was unacceptable,” said a source who attended the board’s monthly meeting. “Can you imagine paying someone whose package amounts to US$3000 over a period of two years?” The board told the company’s representatives that they should pay the packages over a three-month period, a position which the company said they would look into.

The meeting, according to sources, was tense, especially when one of the Retrenchment Board members questioned the Border Timbers representatives how much they were paying their lawyer and if they would take two years to pay for the services rendered by their legal representative. One of the company’s representatives responded by saying that the questions the board member was asking “are too personal”

Border Timbers is under judicial management and had initially applied to be exempt from paying the retrenchment package citing their precarious financial position at the Retrenchment Board’s previous meeting. The application was turned down by the board.

The applications come at a time a number of companies are planning to lay off workers, including the National Railways of Zimbabwe and Hwange Colliery.