NEARLY 9 000 workers were retrenched in 2015 and 2016 as it emerged that 26 companies have retrenched workers this month, signaling the deepening economic crisis which continues to take its toll on struggling firms.
The revelations come at a time the economy is in the doldrums with a debilitating liquidity crunch evidenced by the acute cash shortage in the market, low capacity utilisation of less than 50% and the closure of more than 260 companies from various sectors of the economy last year alone.
In an interview this week, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary-general Japhet Moyo said a total of 8 843 workers were laid off in 2015 and 2016.
“In 2015, 5 333 workers were retrenched and this does not include those who were affected by the July 17 Supreme Court ruling that year which allowed employers to dismiss workers on three months’ notice,” Moyo said. “In 2016, there were 3 510 workers who were retrenched which brings the total to more than 8 500 which is a huge figure if you look at the size of our economy and the level of unemployment.”
Moyo said although retrenchments last year were lower than in 2015, this did not reflect an improved economy. He added that the figure could be much more as several companies did not register their layoffs.
The ZCTU secretary-general also revealed that between the 1st and 19th of this month, 26 companies have retrenched workers as revealed at the Retrenchment Board’s first meeting last week on Thursday.
This adds to the more than 6 000 who were retrenched in 2014 as well as thousands who were dismissed using the July 17 2015 ruling. While trade unions have estimated that around 30 000 were dismissed using the ruling, employers armed with a survey have argued that 9 115 workers were affected.
Moyo said the dispute between the Grain Marketing Board and 73 middle managers it dismissed using the Supreme Court ruling also came before the board last week.
He said the GMB wanted to pay packages amounting to US$308 778 to the managers through monthly payments of US$300 per person, a proposal rejected by the managers. The impasse, Moyo said, was then taken to the board who ordered that the GMB to pay US$537 per month per person.
He said as a union they had to find ways to adjust to the shrinking formal job market to remain relevant.
“Most of our members are on fixed contracts usually for a period of three months,” Moyo said. “We need now to readjust because over the years trade unions generally will thrive on formal employment because that is where they get their membership. It is very important that we now readjust to make ourselves relevant to those in the informal sector because that is where we find the bulk of the workers. It is a tall order for our affiliates who have to restrategise on how they get membership from workers in the informal economy.”