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1,300 Workers Lose Jobs as Zimbabwe Attempts to Stop Labour Crisis

FILE: Zimbabwean workers demonstrate against the high cost of living and low wages in Harare, Saturday, April, 11, 2015. ( AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Zimbabwe’s labor organizations are accusing business of intensifying a “brutal and coward” retrenchment of workers ahead of an expected intervention by President Robert Mugabe to stop the massive job cuts that have seen nearly 1,300 workers being laid off since Friday.

On Wednesday, SinoZim Cotton Holdings laid off about 400 workers. The company had previously planned to increase cotton seed and lint output to 35,000 metric tonnes at its $17 million plant at Hopley Farm near Harare commissioned by President Robert Mugabe in December 2013.

Sino-Zimbabwe Cement Company (SZCC) is a joint business venture between a Chinese Foreign Direct Investment partner, China Building- Material Corporation for Foreign Econo-Technical Co-operation (CBMC), and the Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe Limited (IDC).

CBMC contributed 65% of the original funding in the form of modern technology and expertise while the IDC provided land, civil works, as well as highly educated, skilled manpower, coupled with management intimate knowledge of local condition.

The job cuts follow a Supreme Court ruling Friday that employers contracts can be terminated after a three month notice without offering a retrenchment package.

Business leaders though are accusing the workers of exaggerating the figures to force government to change the labor act. But labor minister Prisca Mupfumira says the judgement has opened floodgates for employers to terminate workers’ contracts.

Yesterday, some government ministers and labor leaders agreed to urge Mr Mugabe to evoke his presidential temporary powers to issue a gazette to stop the massive retrenchment.

Mr Mugabe returned to Harare Wednesday from Malabo, Equatorial Guinea where he chaired an African Union conference on Ebola. Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Secretary General Japhet Moyo told Studio 7 that workers have been hit hard by the retrenchments

But President David Norupiri of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce denied that employers were retrenching workers without just cause.

The International Monetary Fund and the World VBank have warned of a challenging economic environment ahead and urged Harare to pursue strong macroeconomic policies.