AT least 600 workers in the furniture and lumber sectors have gone several months without pay as companies battle viability challenges, businessdigest has learnt.
By Kudzai Kuwaza
The sector has been hard hit by a number of challenges including a debilitating liquidity crunch, decline in productivity and the flooding of cheap imports on the market.
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.
“The non-payment of wages has affected more than 600 workers in our sector,” an official with the labour union told businessdigest on Wednesday.
“Some of the workers are going for three, six or even 10 months without getting their salaries but are still expected to come to work. This is tantamount to slavery.”
The official said that state entities were the main culprits when it comes to the failure to pay workers on time.
The deepening economic crisis, characterised by a debilitating liquidity crunch, low capacity utilisation and company closures, has whittled down the number of workers in those sectors from 11 000 in 2009 to under 2000 currently, the official revealed.
At least 1 400 employees lost their jobs in the two sectors in 2015 and 2016 owing to company closures and retrenchments as well as the July 17 2015 Supreme Court ruling that allowed employers to dismiss workers on three months’ notice without paying a retrenchment package.