By Andile Tshuma
Panic has gripped workers at Edgars Stores Limited after their employer reportedly indicated plans to lay off about 90 of them in Bulawayo as part of a restructuring exercise. Management at the giant clothing retailer could not come out clear on the matter.
A senior company executive, Ms Linda Masterson, confirmed restructuring but said the issue had been misunderstood by employees.
“All I can say is that we are doing some reshuffling at our factory, which may result in some people losing jobs, but I cannot say anything beyond that. I’m not in a position to give further details at the moment but we do have a reshuffling exercise,” she said.
Responding to e-mailed questions later, Ms Masterson said she was unable to discuss staff matters with the media.
“We are not able to discuss staff matters with the press. Matters of the nature you inquire after, if they happened, would only be discussed with our staff through the proper channels,” she said.
However, Business Chronicle was shown some scanned documents from company management advising staff that 90 people must go on voluntary retirement before June 11, or else face forced retirement.
Reads part of the documents: “The business continues to face a difficult operating environment. In the circumstances, it is imperative for strong measures to be taken to ensure that the business does not fold. Consequently, staff are invited to apply for voluntary retrenchment”.
According to the availed documents, conditions of the stated retrenchment include half a month’s back pay for every year served, a long service award where its due in 2018, staff account write off for purchases until May 31, 2018 and assistance in loan repayments.
The reported threat of job cuts comes barely a week after the company had signalled positive prospects with plans to resume exports.
Disgruntled workers who spoke on condition of anonymity expressed their shock over the employer’s decision, which they said was unilateral and feared for their welfare.
“We had just been hearing it in the corridors that we were being watched and that some of us were going to go home. We were only addressed last week but still the criteria of who is going to be retrenched or fired is still unclear. It is worrying,” said one of the general workers. A female staffer hoped her job was safe.
“My husband is unemployed and I am the only breadwinner in the family. We have three children at school and I cannot afford to lose this job. I hope the company will be sensitive enough to consider the plight of us workers before turning us away. We have nowhere else to go because the economy is bad,” said the worker.
A workers’ committee representative said “We fear for our jobs. They said anyone who comments in the media will be the first in the firing line. It becomes difficult to represent the workers as we are now easy targets,” said the representative. The Chronicle