April 8, 2020

Save jobs, companies urged

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Takudzwa Chihambakwe

The Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ), has called on companies to preserve jobs where possible despite facing various challenges to pay salaries after the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

This comes at a time when some companies have mooted retrenchments.

EMCOZ president, Israel Murefu says some of the actions are understandable as a number of sectors such as tourism are on complete shut-down.

His sentiments come after stock exchange listed company, Simbisa Brands released a statement highlighting that it was laying-off its contract workers. 

“This is a very difficult period for both business and employees. What we expect is that if there is any business that wants to do anything from a labour market perspective they should do it in terms of the law of the country,” said Murefu.

“But, we would advise employers to exercise caution as much as possible and try to save jobs, if they can.”

Murefu said recent actions by Simbisa Brands were a result of the prevailing situation in the hospitality industry.

“The hospitality sector in the country is generally closed down. Businesses are not generating income so it might be difficult to pay salaries. However, we are not saying that they should retrench.

“They must try as much as possible to have an arrangement with employees on a course of action and try to implement what they would have agreed,” he advised.

He also said they are engaging Government and other stakeholders in the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) to come up with solutions on the matter.

“We think that by Thursday the TNF would have come up with a position which should be sent to all businesses and social partners as a guideline.”

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) also shared its views on the matter of safeguarding jobs in the wake of the pandemic.

“Government made a mistake by not taking a well-coordinated and inclusive approach to the response on the coronavirus epidemic,” said ZCTU president, Peter Mutasa.

“Other countries brought labour, business and government together to craft a national response plan. This collective approach has caused governments of these countries to give moratoriums that there will be no retrenchments and nobody should be forced to go on leave during the lockdown. The same governments then also come up with stimulus plans.”

He added that companies which can afford to pay workers must do so as a way of national service.

“There are some sectors and companies that are already in a crisis. In this regard, Government must come up with a fiscal plan to ensure that they pay part of the salaries.

“We have submitted our position paper to Government through the Ministry of Labour. The paper clearly highlights the responsibilities of all players in the TNF. One of the issues it raises is that any serious business will not lay-off workers because it simply exacerbates the crisis which makes life even tougher after the lockdown,” he revealed.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) states that there will be a number of job losses due to the virus. The ILO estimates that 1.25 billion workers, representing almost 38 per cent of the global workforce, are employed in sectors that are now facing a severe decline in output and a high risk of workforce displacement. Key sectors include retail trade, accommodation and food services, and manufacturing.

“As of 1 April 2020, estimates indicate that working hours will decline in the current quarter (Q2) by around 6.7 per cent, which is equivalent to 195 million full-time workers (assuming a 48-hour working week).

“This implies that many of these workers will face a loss of income and deeper poverty. There is also a high risk that the increase in the global number of unemployed at the end of 2020 will be significantly higher than the initial projection (25 million) in the ILO’s first Monitor. The production losses for many enterprises are also likely to be devastating and long-lasting, especially in developing countries where the fiscal space for economic stimulation is restricted,” reads the ILO Monitor 2nd edition: COVID-19 and the world of work.

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