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MANZINI – Retrenchments are imminent for some of the 14 048 employees on unpaid layoffs due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

This follows that some employers have advanced an argument that they were no longer able to sustain their businessess, as they have had minimal activity since the national emergency was announced by the Prime Minister, Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini. The national emergency was announced on March 17, 2020, due to the relentless spread of the coronavirus across the world.

Given this state of affairs, some entrepreneurs in the various economic sectors, said they feared that they would not to be able to pay out their employees should the opportunity to retrench arise.


This, they said, was due to the consistent extension of the national emergency as it has been extended twice with a month apiece following the initial two-month period.
The Labour Commissioner, Mthunzi Shabangu’s office, reported that the cumulative figure of unpaid layoffs was 14 048 and it was derived from 105 approved requests of different companies.

One of the partners, who shall be present during the Labour Advisory Board (LAB) discussions on Friday, said they were seeking to propose the implementation of retrenchments.
“Looking at the current scenario and the manner in which the operations are ongoing, there is no alternative but to terminate the employment of some of the employees,” he said. He said this was necessitated by the fact that most of the employers were barely coping with their basic overheads while the cost of retaining the employees was unsustainable anymore.

The business community representative said during the meeting, they would advocate for permission to retrench. This, he said, shall be for employers who had followed the laid-down guidelines from inception, such as documenting their mitigation means in dealing with the repercussions of the coronavirus; such as short time, rotational shifts and the worst being unpaid layoffs.
“The layoffs were set to be for the period of two months as per the dictates of the ministry (of Labour and Social Security) announced by the minister, following the advice of the LAB,” he said.
Making an example, the industry player said employers had also raised concerns that delaying the retrenchments would surmount the payment of packages.


This assertion was supported by the Federation of the Eswatini Business Community (FESBC). The Deputy President of FESBC, Hezekiel Mabuza, said the retrenchments were imminent given that most employers were no longer capable of remunerating their employees.
“Retrenchments are the only option as the coronavirus persists. We should rather be able to pay out those the employees now than to delay and accumulate unnecessary expenditure while there are no available resources already.”
Mabuza said this was a subject that was still to be engaged on, but the financial challenges were the motivating factor for many.  He said such entrepreneurs could not access bridging finance to assist them sustain their businesses in such a frustrating time. Due to this, he said the only option they had was to minimise staff.

“The only solution is to get rid of the human resource and when you do that, there are trickle-down effects as many people depended on your operations.”
Mabuza said this was a tough call, but it needed to be dealt with in order to free the employees and let them have their terminal benefits so that they could use them in the interim while the economy was recovering from the pandemic.
On the other hand, the Chief Executive of Business Eswatini, Nathi Dlamini, in a previous interview, supported the idea of retrenchments. He said their members had been facing challenges given that their personnel had been on unpaid layoffs.


He said the tourism sector had minimal activity due to the fact that the ports of entry, which led to the flow of tourists into the country, were inactive.
Dlamini said government had already started groundwork to look post COVID-19 as means to mitigate the calamities; however, the challenge was the immediate.  Also, the Chief Executive Officer of the Eswatini Tourism Authority (ETA), Linda Nxumalo, last month said the issue of retrenchments had been brought forth by players in the industry.

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