IN a bid to mitigate the impact of the crippling power cuts, companies have taken drastic measures with employees working throughout the night so as to make the most of the electricity when it is restored, businessdigest has learnt.
BY CHIPA GONDITII
Manufacturing companies are going up to 18 hours a day without electricity as the country is facing its worst power cuts since 2008 and, according to captains of industry, companies are losing up to US$200 million weekly as a result.
Zimbabwe’s persistent blackouts mean that electricity is only available at night.
In some instances, it has been reported that the employees are not even being paid overtime, putting an even greater strain on their bodies and salaries which have been eroded by runaway inflation.
An employee at a plastic pipe manufacturing company said employees sometimes work around the clock even after they have finished their shifts so as to take advantage of the available electricity.
“We have workers putting in unusual hours here because you have people who are working during the night from 11pm to 7am so as to capitalise on the electricity when it comes back at that time,” he said. “We also have a situation whereby people are forced to work on weekends without any overtime. And the hard part is that the workers are getting only $17-$20 monthly as shift allowances for having worked through the night.”
Another worker at a manufacturing plant in Harare’s Graniteside industrial zone said workers are forced to spring into action at night as they would have spent the day idle due to the unavailability of electricity.
“Here we spent the day sitting when there’s no electricity, so l am not going home at times, l sleep at work from around 6pm or 8pm then l wake up at 9pm or 10pm to work, depending on what time the electricity comes back,” he said.
Industry is already below half its installed capacity and, considering that many companies are using obsolete technology to process goods, the situation is dire. The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries have revealed that capacity utilisation will be at the lowest in three years as power outages take a toll.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president Peter Mutasa said workers are bearing the brunt of the deteriorating economic crisis.
“The power crisis is the last nail in the coffin of a deteriorating economy. We have always been advocating for companies to treat their workers fairly in this crumbling economy. We do find that most companies are retrenching and this then puts workers in a difficult position,” Mutasa said.
“If they do not conform to the required stipulations demanded by their employers, they could be fired. So you see then that workers will work even at odd hours because they do not have a choice.”
He also said workers had to stand up for their rights and join trade unions so as to shield themselves from the current hardships.
“So you see all these problems are caused by retrogressive government policies which are contributing greatly to the workers’ suffering. The only solution here for workers to be liberated is to stand up for themselves, and fight for their rights because they know the hassles and struggles they go through every day. As the ZCTU we are putting measures to put measures where we are going to be speaking to workers and organising for them to join trade unions.”
Manufacturing companies which had found refuge in generators will have to fork out more for fuel after Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority this week announced an increase in the price of fuel, with cities having different prices ranging from ZW$10,01 to ZW$10,56 for petrol and ZW$10,32 to ZW$10,86 for diesel.