Lockdown: Workers in Bulawayo fret over looming job losses

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By Bulawayo Correspondent

WORKERS in Bulawayo Friday commemorated May Day amid fears of mass job losses brought by significant decline of business within companies due to the effects of COVID-19.

An unprecedentedly long business break declared to try and manage the spread of the global pandemic by government has also plunged a lot of companies deeper into the abyss.

Thousands of workers in the country’s second capital are anxious their services may nolonger be required by their struggling employers.

“I am worried that I might lose my job after the lockdown,” said Albert Ganda, who works for a city furniture making company.

“Already, I have lost my April salary because of the lockdown.

“Since the beginning of the year, management has been talking about retrenching workers and because of coronavirus, they could now even claim to have a more valid excuse.”

Ganda called on government to protect workers’ jobs by crafting laws which barred employers from laying off employees after the lockdown.

There are also fears that some posts will be made redundant under new drastic working arrangements that will be introduced after the lockdown.

In a message to coincide with the Workers Day commemorations, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Paul Mavima said it would be illegal to force workers to go on unpaid leave during the lockdown period.

“Any consideration of such should be through collective bargaining and also subject to an agreement with workers concerned,” he said.

MDC Alliance spokesperson for Bulawayo province, Swethern Chiroodza urged government to protect the jobs of all workers who are under lockdown.

“No worker should be victimised or retrenched for staying home during lockdown.

“The government should come up with laws which protect workers during these difficult times of COVID-19. The post COVID-19 era should instead create more job opportunities for our young unemployed youths,” said Chiroodza.

He added, “When the so-called new dispensation came into power three years ago, it promised to resuscitate industry.

“Right now, most company buildings have been turned into churches.”

According to Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) western region chairperson, Ambrose Sibindi, 40 percent of Bulawayo’s industry is still operating when the rest of the companies have closed shop due to the harsh economic environment.

Once the country’s industrial hub, companies in Bulawayo have either closed down or relocated to other places.

Estimates say over 100 companies in the recent past have closed shop, affecting over 20 000 employees.