By Sij Ncube
Bulawayo, December 04, 2013 – Thousands of Zimbabwean workers face a bleak festive season and probably a gloomy New Year with the economy reportedly on a tailspin as President Robert Mugabe’s new administration fails to inspire confidence in the economy.
A majority of companies are in doldrums due to a severe financial squeeze, with bulk of the companies failing to pay their employees bonuses or the proverbial 13th cheque.
Although the equally cash-strapped government has awarded public workers bonuses, most private companies nationwide are downsizing while others have gone for over eight months without paying the workers their salaries.
Delays in paying workers monthly salaries have become the norm among most companies, particularly small-to-medium scale enterprises. Even Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has failed to present his 2014 national budget on time.
The few surviving companies are in the red, battling with the prevailing financial squeeze, antiquated machinery, erratic power suppliers, and stiff competition from imported foreign products flooding the market which collectively have resulted in depressed industry performance.
In Bulawayo, companies such as Rubber Products Manufacturing Private Limited, Road Motor Services, Marvo Private Limited, Pigot Masque Private Limited, and National Railways of Zimbabwe have been at loggerheads with employees over unpaid salaries with the standoff mostly likely to continue as the liquidity crunch continues to worsen.
Rubber Products Manufacturing (Pvt) Ltd last week placed its workforce on forced leave with management saying the company was technically insolvent. Workers have not been paid for the past eight months and would be going for the festive season with empty pockets.
The company is said to be facing closure after the state run power utility firm, Zesa Holdings disconnected electricity supplies over an undisclosed debt.
George Nkiwane, the president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) predicted a bleak festive season and a New Year for most of the workers in the private sector.
Nkiwane said the continued non-payment of workers salaries is a cause for concern which is likely to continue in the New Year unless something is urgently done to combat the situation.
“The non-payment of workers’ salaries is widespread even some companies in both the private and public sector we thought were doing well are not paying their employees,” said Nkiwane
“We are discussing as the congress to come up with a position to address the growing the problem,” he added.
Nkiwane said the non-payment of workers is likely to continue next year adding that statistics from the National Retrenchment Board were showing that 350 workers are being laid off every month.
Economic analyst John Robertson said the outlook for workers next year was bleak with more companies expected to shut down as the economy continues to weaken.
He said more companies would close next year attributing the closures to policy inconsistencies which the government has failed to address chiefly the indigenisation law which calls for foreign investors to cede 51 percent of their shareholding to locals.
“We are in deep trouble and the challenge is that the government is not addressing the cause of our problems which is policy inconsistency,” said Robertson.
“As such the outlook next year for workers is decimal, we have to expect more company closures, more people losing their jobs as government has failed to diagnose the real cause of the problem,” he added.
Robertson said most private companies would not be able to pay their workers bonuses due to the prevailing liquidity crunch and the general depressed performance of industry.
He attributed the poor performance of industry to the defunct agriculture sector.
“Most industries in Zimbabwe are agro based and if the agriculture sector is underperforming the revival of industry would not be possible,” added Robertson.
Zimbabwe is going through turbulent times despite promises by the Zanu PF government to stabilise the economy and create two million jobs. More than two million Zimbabweans face starvation owing to food shortages while prisoners are dying due to nutrition induced diseases.