THE Confederation of Zimbabwe Industry (CZI) says business has to be realistic in implementing the Supreme Court ruling on termination of employment contracts saying it should not be used to punish employees.
BY VICTORIA MTOMBA
Recently, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, sitting with four other judges, unanimously agreed that the common law position placing employees and employers on an equal footing was still operational. The ruling has since triggered a spate of firings across sectors of the economy with the affected employees getting three months’ salary as notice pay.
CZI president Busisa Moyo told NewsDay that the body has asked its members to exercise restraint.
He said companies could survive if they were allowed to restructure following a review of labour laws.
“We have asked our members to exercise restraint and the point of the judgment is not to punish people. Let us be realistic and pragmatic, we should be reasonable in our dealing with workers,” Moyo said.
He further said companies had been patient for a long time waiting for the labour laws to be reviewed and some he said had salary backlogs as such were left with no option, but to terminate their employees’ contracts.
“We can address this through clear rules and this is by way of reviewing our labour laws,” he said.
Moyo said only 15% of the people in Zimbabwe were formally employed because companies could not get many workers into their workforce as it was difficult to later separate with an employee at a reasonable cost.
Over 80% of Zimbabweans are engaged in informal sector activities as most companies have closed shop due to viability problems since the country dollarised.
Moyo said companies were facing challenges that included unavailability of funds and issues of competitiveness that needed to be addressed.
“Companies are operating at below optimum levels and volumes are down year on year by 15%. If things continue like this capacity is going to decline further to below 30% from 36%,”Moyo said.
CZI’s call for restraint comes as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) warned that the ruling had caused more harm than good.
“Companies that are terminating contracts must pay all the debts they owe employees and if not, legal action will be taken against them. After terminating the jobs, money has to be paid to the workers. We have already referred some workers to our regional offices that had their contracts terminated,” ZCTU president George Nkiwane said.
Nkiwane said the reaction of companies after the ruling was shocking as some companies actually sent their workers packing the very same day the judgment was made.
“We think if there were any outstanding issues, employers should have solved them, not to wait for the judgment. We think the judgment was made elsewhere where the elite met — maybe a golf course or somewhere,” he said.
Nkiwane said the workers’ body met on Tuesday with government on the issue and was still awaiting a response on their request to have Presidential powers evoked.
Since the Supreme Court ruling thousands of workers have lost their jobs with 1 000 people axed in a day. Some of the companies that sent workers home include Econet Wireless, Zuva Petroleum, TN, Steward Bank, Zimoco and Sakunda among others.