Uncertainty has gripped many families in Kwekwe’s Mbizo high-density suburb following a massive labour shake-up at Zimasco which saw 400 workers being laid off in one swoop last week.
by BLESSED MHLANGA
The job cuts at the Chinese-owned firm came shortly after a recent Supreme Court ruling which made it easier for employers to terminate employment contracts without paying retrenchment packages.
The ferro-chrome smelting giant which currently employs 1 500 workers has reportedly announced plans to offload another 240 workers at its Mutorashanga and Shurugwi operations.
The company has, however, offered to pay a retrenchment package of two months’ salary as severance pay, three months’ pay notice, two weeks’ salary for every year served, three months’ medical cover, and three months’ housing allowance, while those staying in company houses were given an option to buy them.
Kwekwe mayor Matenda Madzoke last week expressed reservations over the move when he met Zimasco general manager Blessed Chitambira.
“It is with no doubt that I was shocked to hear about these job losses, so I met with Zimasco management just to get the hang of things. I must say I am now a bit settled that the workers will get something which might sustain them for a while especially those who have been at the company longer,” he said.
Madzoke, however, said in the long run, the 400 families would be in a fix and this would eventually affect the council’s revenue inflows.
“These jobs should not have been lost in the first place, but Zimasco tells us that market prices are falling and labour costs continue to escalate, leaving them with no choice but to shed jobs.
Affected workers described the retrenchment packages as too little.
“Two weeks’ salary for every year served is just a polite way of saying half salary and that means I will get $2 000 for the 10 years I have been working these furnaces and this money is supposed to be enough for the future of my family,” one of the affected workers said.
However, other enterprising workers said they would take advantage of the windfall to start their own income-generating projects.
“We are told that the package will be paid once off. There will be no staggering in the payments, so I will soon be opening at tuckshop at my house so that I can find something to do,” another worker said.
Two months ago, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa accused Zimasco of playing economic wars against the ruling party and shipping off profits into foreign countries by selling ferro-chrome through middlemen instead of trading directly on the world market.
“We have now engaged the company owned by (Zuniad) Moti (Africa Chrome Fields) which will now buy the chrome directly from Zimasco to reduce pilferage of profits and, therefore, reviving the economy,” he said.