Inside Communities – Many cry out in the era of retrenchments

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On February 20, 2017, Mathias Mabhiza, 50, reported to work as usual in Zimbabwe’s largest city, Harare, but by end of day he was jobless.

Now, Mabhiza leads 28 former fellow workers that recently approached the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) for legal assistance, to get a better work termination deal, after they were recently laid off.

Mabhiza said that the abrupt turn of events, towards the end of February, has affected his life and that of his dependent children.

“If they [the company] really thought the situation was bad,” he said, “they should have retrenched the senior managers first, since they are the ones earning a lot of money.

“I have orphans that I am keeping at home, and this has really affected my life.

“They should have sat down with the workers’ committee and approached the Retrenchment Board for settlement of the issue.”

Batsirai Kasirori, 38, said: “We just woke up and went work.

“The next thing we were called by the Human Resources office to say you are no longer wanted.”

The former workers have approached the Labour officer in Harare for conciliation and their matter will be heard on Thursday, March 16, 2017.

In a letter seen by ZimRights’ Inside Communities that is dated February 20, 2017, the catering company, Servcor, advised the employees that they had been nominated for retrenchment.

The company said it could no longer pay them due to the lack of investment – something that has led to the closure of thousands of companies and retrenchment of thousands more workers in Zimbabwe.

The retrenchments have launched a silent, but for many painful, social crisis in the country.

ZimRights has come to terms with the growing socioeconomic problem of retrenchments and unfair treatment of affected people during the public legal consultations carried out by Legal Department every Tuesday.

“As you may be aware, Servcor Private Limited has been going through tough times over the last 2-3 years.

“Several efforts to find fresh investment in the business yielded no results,” the Finance Manager wrote.

The company said it had applied to and been granted by the High Court a Scheme of Arrangement to restructure, which also meant cutting down its workforce.

The company further advised the affected workers that they had to stop reporting to work on the same day that they received the letter: they had to immediately go home.

But they would begin their one month notice from March 1, 2017, for which they were offered notice pay, get benefits equivalent to one week’s salary per every two years worked, and payment for 25% of leave days accrued up to 90 leave days.

The workers claimed that they are owed nine months of contributions to their pension, funeral, and medical aid schemes.

Zivai Mtisi, 42, who worked as a bartender and a chef, said she is a single mother who was solely depending on income that she received from her job which she worked for the past 13 years.

“I have three children and the youngest is in Grade 2,” Mtisi said.

“I was planning to start a livelihoods project such as chicken-rearing had the money been paid in time.”

Hebert Maguta, 53, who worked at the company cutting meat for the past 14 years, said with the recent wave of retrenchments he was not surprised, but he wanted his fair dues.

He put the number of his dependents at 15.

He has families, including eight orphans left by his three deceased children, in Harare’s Kambuzuma surburb and at his rural home in Chiendambuya area.

“I have a house which was left by my parents in Kambuzuma,” said Maguta. “There are 12 dependents staying there.

“These include my children and grandchildren.

“I have eight grandchildren that I am taking care of the eldest of which is in Grade 6.

“Their parents passed away in the last few years.”

Dabula Mabhena, 44 – who has dependents that include two wives, four children, a young brother, parents, and two in-laws – has been working for 23 years at Servcor as a chef and snack shop operator.

“We thought we should go to a human rights organisation,” he said, explaining why they had approached ZimRights with their issue.

“It is painful because I am was not prepared for it.

“It disturbs the life of the children because as a parent I was having plans. I have been loyal to the company for all these years.

“There should have been a good send-off; not to be treated like criminals.

“Maybe they could have given us two weeks of work per month.”