Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
HOTEL group, African Sun Limited (ASL), has retrenched about 150 workers from its three Victoria Falls hotels citing the need to streamline staff in the wake of Covid-19 impact.
Some of the affected workers had served the company for more than 30 years and drawn from different departments.
The affected workers were given three months’ notice with effect from September 1, and ordered to vacate company accommodation at the lapse of the three months’ notice, which is December 1.
Retrenchment letters seen by Chronicle Business show that Elephant Hills Resort retrenched 36 workers, Kingdom Hotel 31 and Victoria Falls Hotel 82. Several other hotels have also retrenched staff citing low business recently.
The workers will be paid one month’s salary per every two years served, plus three months basic salary notice pay, three months refund of medical aid, while there is no figure given for pension and gratuity.
Only the medical aid refund is payable in United States dollars while all other packages are in local currency.
“As communicated to you earlier at the beginning of the process we are giving you three months’ notice to vacate company accommodation,” reads part of the retrenchment letters.
“The three months’ notice is from 1 September to 30 November. Therefore, you are expected to vacate the company house by 1 December and hand over the keys to the loss control department,”
A majority of workers were on fixed term contracts and it is understood that some departments remained with no staff. Representatives of the retrenched workers are expected to meet the retrenchment board in Harare today.
Affected workers have also written to local leadership including Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Richard Moyo and Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu, to intervene.
They contend that while they are not challenging retrenchment, they were concerned that the company used National Employment Council (NEC) pay rates for 2018 instead of the current pay rate without considering the hyper inflationary environment.
The workers said they were worried that they were leaving the company empty handed after serving many years, some nearly 40 years, but sought to be given adequate benefits.
“We are not refusing to be retrenched but we are not happy with the way they calculated packages. They did not follow what is on the pay slip but used the old NEC rates, which they had also set aside because the rates were no longer reasonable,” said Mr Taurai Mhange, who worked as a front office supervisor at Elephant Hills.
“The current pay slips have a component of the United States dollars, which they should have used to calculate retrenchment packages based on the prevailing exchange rate than to use the 2018 salary, which has been eroded by hyperinflation.”
ASL managing director, Mr Edwin Shangwa, was not picking his mobile phone as he was said to be in a board meeting yesterday. The company was paying workers in United States dollars until 2017 when the country adopted a 1:1 rate.
According to the retrenchment letters, a waiter’s package is calculated using $3 000 being the monthly salary for 2018. Two years served are equivalent to one month’s salary of $3 000 meaning to say somebody who worked for 30 years will get $45 000 before tax.
Another worker, Mr Godknows Zimbovora said their families will suffer. “We wonder why they reverted to old rates in paying packages. We have families that we have to take care of. People had goals, which are now shattered because of retrenchment and we would have appreciated even a disturbance allowance. Right now, people are being forced to sign as if we voluntarily left work,” he said.
Another worker, Mr Edson Moyo, appealed to the Government to intervene.
“We are not saying they should have paid us in United States dollars but they should have used current pay rates. If you look at the current payslip people got half salary of $11 000, why didn’t they use that rate at least? We appeal to the Government to intervene and help us on this issue,” he said.
Trade unionist, Mr Edward Dzapasi, said some companies are taking advantage of policy gaps to manipulate workers.
“Companies have been giving allowances and cost of living packages, which cannot be used in calculating retrenchment packages hence these problems,” he said.
“As much as we sympathise with the employer, let’s also consider the plight of workers because some have worked for more than 30 years and are no longer employable elsewhere.
“We need labour laws that protect workers and we appeal to the Government to intervene,” said Mr Dzapasi. — @ncubeleon