More than 250 workers in Zimbabwe have lost their jobs in the wake of a landmark ruling by a top court that allows employers to terminate workers’ contracts by giving them just three months’ notice.
Previously employers had to undergo lengthy retrenchment processes and pay severance packages.
Workers in food, banking, furniture and security industries were among those who received termination notices on Monday, a top trade union official said.
“We continue to have more workers thrown into the streets, and we are very, very worried about this development,” Japhet Moyo, the secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions told News24.
Zimbabwe’s unemployment levels are already reported to be over 80%. Struggling firms continue to close down, or are operating at a fraction of their full capacity.
Tough labour laws
Opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, on Tuesday slammed the Supreme Court ruling, saying it would “wreack unimaginable havoc on society”.
“Employers are now at liberty to embark on a wholesale termination of their employees’ contracts of employment without paying any retrenchment packages,” the party said in a statement.
The ZCTU’s Moyo said: “What it [the court ruling] means to everyone is: employers have decided now to abandon the retrenchment processes… They now prefer to terminate employment on notices because there are no hassles.”
He said that workers would now either push government to reverse the Supreme Court decision or file an appeal in the Constitutional Court.
Analysts say that Zimbabwe’s tough labour laws protecting workers had in the past proved a disincentive for investment.
Some Zimbabweans have welcomed Friday’s Supreme Court ruling. Prominent Harare lawyer Tawanda Zhuwarara said in a tweet: “The Supreme Court judgement on termination on notice may just be the best thing that ever happened to Zim’s economy!”