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Retrenchment board rendered toothless

Kudzai Kuwaza

THE Retrenchment Board has been left nearly redundant after the Labour Act was emended and the institution has dealt with only one case in the last three months, businessdigest has learnt.

According to the amended Labour Act, workers who are retrenched are entitled to two weeks’ wages for every year served, three months’ salary and other terminal packages.

This has resulted in the retrenchment process in various companies being dealt with at enterprise level without approaching the board.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary-general Japhet Moyo told businessdigest in a recent interview that the Retrenchment Board, which was reconstituted three months ago, has handled only one case during that period.

“The board, since it was changed, has only received one case which is a dispute by a mining company and its nine retrenched workers who have not yet been paid their retrenchment packages,” Moyo said.

“There has been a significant reduction in the number of cases brought before the board because of the amended retrenchment procedures. Most companies just retrench their workers and finalise the process at the enterprise level using the amended guidelines for retrenchment as provided in the Labour Act.”

Moyo said the by-passing of the board in most retrenchment processes has made it difficult to come up with accurate statistics of how many workers are being laid off.

Several companies have retrenched workers as the economic crisis characterised by low productivity estimated to be below 30%, a debilitating liquidity crunch, an acute cash shortage, prolonged power outages and runaway year-on-year inflation which has shot up to 353%.

This comes as more than 300 workers in the financial sector have been retrenched in the last two months alone as a result of the steep economic decline.
Companies tend to lay off staff in tough economic times as demand for products and services weakens.

Hyperinflation has also piled the misery on workers after earnings were significantly eroded.More than 2 800 workers were retrenched by 73 companies in 2017 for various reasons ranging from restructuring to viability challenges.

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.

In 2016, there were 3 510 workers who were retrenched, signaling the continued haemorrhaging of jobs.More than 6 000 workers were retrenched in 2014. Thousands were also 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.

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