Zimbabwe employees endure tougher conditions as they mark Internayional Workers' Day

GMT 01:30 2016 Monday ,02 May

Arab Today, arab today Zimbabwe employees endure tougher conditions as they mark Internayional Workers' Day

The national flag of Zimbabwe
Harare - XINHUA

Zimbabweans ushered in a difficult International Workers' Day this year as more people lost their jobs in the past year due to a controversial court ruling.

A wave of job dismissals followed a Supreme Court ruling last July allowing employers to terminate the services of their employees on short notice without compensation.

Labor unions estimate that more than 20,000 workers lost their jobs and many of them still await their terminal benefits.

"The past few months have been very tough," said a former journalist who was put on relieve last year. "Our dreams have been shattered with no prospects of getting alternative employment as the economic situation continues to bite," said the journalist.

The Zimbabwean economy is in the doldrums with growth for 2015 going down to 1.5 percent from the projected 3.2 percent, with the reduction attributed to poor performance in the anchor sectors of agriculture and mining. It is envisaged to grow by 2.7 percent in 2016.

In industry, capacity utilization has remained below 40 percent because of liquidity constraints and high operational costs due to ageing equipment.

Official figures put the rate of unemployment at 11 percent while independent experts put it at more than 80 percent.

Hundreds of opposition supporters recently held a demonstration in Harare demanding among other things that the ruling party provides 2 million jobs it promised the electorate during campaigns for the 2013 general elections.

However, the party has since said that the government will not be able to create the jobs because of economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by Western governments since the turn of the century.

Political commentator Tichaona Muchapera said the conventional workers had now been replaced by armies of unemployed people who chose to call themselves self-employed.

"There is a new phrases that Zimbabweans have coined, 'am self-employed' to mask the high level of unemployment as few are holding the traditional 8-to-5 job, so l wonder which workers will be celebrating Workers' Day as most people are now employers, not of many, but of themselves," he said.

While labor unions condemned the dismissals, some analysts and stakeholders welcomed them saying that they allowed struggling companies to get rid of bloated work-forces and the accompanying labor costs and to focus on growing their production levels.

Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe Executive Director John Mufukare said that the court ruling had given companies breathing space to continue operations.

"Companies were able to rationalise their workforce. They are now able to sustain themselves for the time being," he told the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper at the time of the mass dismissals.

Though initially after the court ruling, many workers left empty handed, the government later intervened and ordered that the laid-offs should be paid two weeks' salary for every year served.

Job security in Zimbabwe has constantly been under threat over the years, with 4,600 companies shut down between 2011 and 2014, resulting in thousands of job losses.

Of the employed, more than 80 percent are in the informal sector where many take home paltry sums.

Economist Clemence Machadu said people who were able to hold on to their jobs also saw income shrink over the past few months, forcing the working class to change spending patterns to save money.

"This has also reduced domestic demand, which in turn will reduce production levels," Machadu said a growth model that did not pay attention to adequately remunerating workers was therefore flawed as there would be no spending power to create demand for goods.

Many workers are failing to make ends meet and have changed their lifestyles to fit into their income brackets, while others have had their properties auctioned for failing to settle municipal bills.

But this year marked the first time in more than a decade the government participated in Workers' Day commemoration. It had alleged the occasion being politicized as the country's largest opposition party had its roots in trade unions.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, out of which the opposition movement was born nearly two decades ago, themed this year's commemoration as "Workers' Constitutional Rights -- Our Prerogative."

The organization's secretary-general Japhet Moyo said the theme was chosen because it was no longer necessary to confine themselves to worker-employer issues, but there was also need to look at other rights such as housing, education and health.

"We are in a very precarious situation," he said, adding that workers are now in a worse off situation, especially in the informal sector.

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