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Fired workers in limbo

A sizeable number of workers fired on three months’ notice after the July 17 Supreme Court ruling have died due to depression, it has emerged.

BY OBEY MANAYITI

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president George Nkiwane said some of the people could have committed suicide, although the number of people who could have taken their lives after losing their jobs was not yet known.

George-Nkiwane

“I can confirm one incident of suicide, but of course depression is too high among the axed workers,” Nkiwane said.

An estimated 20 000 employees were fired on three months’ notice before the government moved in and amended the Labour Act to protect jobs.

However, despite the passing of the new labour law, most fired workers are still to get their exit packages.

Andrew Sithole (43) is one of the workers who were affected by the Supreme Court ruling.

He is a father of four minor children and his wife is unemployed.

Sithole said he owns a residential stand but his house has not yet been completed.

He used to rent a house in one of the high-density suburbs in Harare but has now relocated to his residential stand where he managed to put up a makeshift wooden structure.

Sithole said he was struggling to make ends meet and the sudden loss of employment had brought untold suffering to his family. He is now considering relocating to the rural areas.

“Life has never been easy for me. I have a diploma in accounting but now prospects of finding another job are so low,” he said.

“I have to look after my family and already my kids have gone through a rough patch in life, which I fear will affect their performance at school.

“The only option I have is to go to my rural area in Headlands and revive tobacco farming on my father’s land.

“I hope there will be no bickering with my siblings over land.

“I have to find something to do because I need to sustain my family. This is the sad reality I am going through.”
Sithole’s predicament is shared by many who have been pinning hopes on the implementation of the amended Labour Act which calls for full compensation to fired workers beyond the three months’ salary.

Nkiwane said they were pursuing a legal route to compel the employers to pay fired workers as per the amended law.

“Our position is clear; we are saying employers should own up on their obligations.

“If they cannot reinstate the workers, then they have to pay them as prescribed in the Act,” Nkiwane said.

“We have established that employers are reluctant to pay and our legal department is now handling the matter.

“That is the only route that we are pursuing but in future we can call for a general council meeting which can then direct the leadership to find any other route to deal with the matter.”

Sithole said he had joined the informal sector but does not have capital to start a meaningful business other than vending.

The newly-formed Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (Viset) claimed about 6 000 people who were affected by the Supreme Court ruling had since joined the informal sector.

“We recorded an approximate number of about 5 000 to 6 000 people who were chucked from formal employment and joined the informal sector because there was no clear alternative for them,” said Samuel Wadzai, Viset director.

“The majority are, however, finding the going tough as they are people who were used to formal employment; worse still, because government has banned the lucrative business of selling second-hand clothes.”

Wadzai added: “There is also lack of proper legal framework to support the informal sector.

“They have to brave running battles with municipal police and fight for selling spaces.

“The problems are too many and we have been appealing to government to approach these issues from a holistic and sustainable point of view.”

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