Simbisa lays off contract workers

Simbisa Brands chief executive officer Warren Meares speaks at the official opening of Nandos Msasa branch in Harare yesterday

LOCAL companies are starting to feel the pinch of coronavirus, with Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE)-listed fast-foods concern Simbisa Brands announcing that it is laying off contract workers, putting employees on leave and freezing acting appointments, among other cost-cutting measures.

— By Fidelity Mhlanga

Zimbabwe is on its ninth day of the 21-day lockdown announced by authorities to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country, which has nine cases including one death.

Though Simbisa Brands falls under the essential services, which have been allowed to operate during the lockdown period, due to subdued business activity, the company said it was not generating sufficient revenue to pay salaries.

In an internal memo seen by NewsDay Business, authorities at the fast-foods outlet entity announced cost-cutting measures to be effected in the next 48 hours.

“Kindly provide the following in the next 48 hours. Based on your March 2020 payroll’s leave schedule, we need the following: Leave balances per shop, cost centre and per employee as at March 31, number of days applied for, taken from March 30 (2020) first day of lockdown. Projecting closing balance as at April 30, 2020. Every employee must have a leave form actioned for April and all must physically go on leave, no carry forward,” part of the memo read.

“Even where the employee has zero balance, negative balances will be accepted under the circumstances. All contract workers who joined from December 2019 must be laid off. All students on attachment must be stopped temporarily and no student allowances will be paid in April. All acting appointments must be frozen until normal trade resumes, meaning no acting allowances in April.”

Contacted for comment, Simbisa Brands managing director Warren Meares told NewsDay Business that the whole world was being brought to its knees by coronavirus.

“Why don’t you contact government and check the impact of coronavirus? Go and check what Old Mutual is doing on the stock exchange. Check what hotels in Victoria Falls are doing and the whole world is doing about the virus,” Meares said.

According to the memo, the move was necessitated by the fact that the firm had not generated enough revenue to pay salaries as it was operating below normal hours.

“You are aware that we have only a few shops currently trading, with most of them only open from three to four hours a day, so we have no revenue to pay salaries. Please treat as urgent and where you are getting no co-operation from line managers, immediately bring that to my attention or any of the directors,” the memo reads.

Simbisa Brands operated as a business unit of Zimbabwe’s largest company by revenue, Innscor Africa, before it was unbundled and listed separately on the ZSE in 2015.

The company operates fast-food brands such as Chicken Inn, Pizza Inn, Creamy Inn, Baker’s Inn, Fish Inn, Galito’s Africa, Nando’s, Steers and Vida E Caffe and delivery service, Dial-a-Delivery.