/ 6 August 2015

Massive Zim job losses in wake of court ruling

The crocodile: About 20?000 people have been invited to Robert Mugabe's bash on February 28 at Victoria Falls that will include feasting
Imran Khan (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

According to reports, 18 000 workers have been fired in less than three weeks after a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court last month in a case between Zuva Petroleum and its former managers. 

The effect of the ruling is that employers are now retrenching workers and not providing them with benefits.

By Wednesday, five parastatals had sent thousands of their workers home, citing the court ruling. These include National Railways of Zimbabwe (350 workers), Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (309), Air Zimbabwe (100), CMED (200) and Grain Marketing Board (400). 

Part of the termination letter sent to GMB workers read: “The GMB has decided to exercise its right in terms of the common law to terminate your contract of employment with GMB on three months’ notice. Consequently, you are no longer required to come to work with effect from August 5 2015.” 

The letter was signed by GMB’s deputy general manager for human resources Sibongile Muchirahondo. Sources said 400 GMB workers, mostly from Bulawayo, had been affected by the job cuts amid reports that the parastatal was targeting 1 500 staffers countrywide.

President Robert Mugabe has criticised the job losses.

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), a government body, says it received a government directive to trim its workforce using the same law that has seen workers being dismissed without benefits.

ZTA chief executive Karikoga Kaseke told NewsDay on Tuesday that: “It’s something coming to us. It’s not like we chose it ourselves. It was a decision by the Cabinet that those parastatals who can take advantage of this ruling can do so, but as ZTA, we are not.”

Tourism minister Walter Mzembi and acting information minister Prisca Mupfumira were not available for comment. Labour ministry permanent secretary Ngoni Masoka said he could not comment because he was not in the office.

“I am out of office, but you can phone our offices and talk to acting secretary Marimba or the legal officer Sibiya,” he said. Both officials could also not be reached for comment.

Mupfumira, who doubles as labour minister, has been on record over the past week as saying government was seeking ways to stop the job losses triggered by the court ruling.

Zanu-PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said amendments would soon be made to stop the firing of workers.

“Cabinet last week approved the labour law amendment, which seeks to protect the workers as well as the employer.

“The [Zanu-PF] politburo received a full briefing on the issue and now awaits the Bill to be tabled in Parliament,” he said.

Political analyst Takura Zhangazha said government was being populist in the manner it was handling the matter.

“The government is essentially talking about civil servants and does not view those that work for parastatals as such,” he said.

“It, is however, being populist in seeking to claim it does not fire its workers when the minister of finance [Patrick Chinamasa] has already announced an intention to downsize the civil service in keeping with the staff-monitored programme of the IMF [International Monetary Fund].”

Zhangazha said under these circumstances, even the jobs of civil servants were not safe.

Opposition MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu accused the Zanu-PF government of using deceptive language.

“The Zanu-PF regime is notorious for doublespeak. They always indicate right, but almost, invariably, they always turn left. This regime is a curse on the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.

“This regime doesn’t care one iota about the suffering of the ordinary person.

“Zimbabwe is under the yoke of a fully-fledged kleptocracy; a renegade, fascist regime that only cares about one thing, that is its hold on power.”

Meanwhile, primary and secondary education minister Lazarus Dokora confirmed that his office had been inundated with teachers who had not received their July salaries.

He said his ministry was referring the teachers to the relevant authorities.

“The question of salaries is a dialogue between the workers and the employers. They are deployed to work in my ministry by the employer,” Dokora said.

“The question of salaries is a dialogue that you do with the employer.

“That engagement is ongoing between the two ministries and the [civil service] commission. That is an ongoing engagement and I am glad that you said they did not receive their salaries and not that they were fired.”

The government says the over 3 000 teachers who did not receive their salaries last month had not been found at their workstations during a recent headcount as part of efforts to weed out ghost workers.

An audit carried out during the inclusive government era showed that there were at least 75 000 ghost workers in the civil service. – Newsday