By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
10 February 2014
The future of Kwekwe is uncertain after a major employer in the Midlands city said it is retrenching half of its workforce due to financial problems.
Reports Sunday said the Zimbabwe Mining and Alloy Smelting Company (Zimasco) announced that it will be retrenching half of its three thousand workers in an attempt to streamline costs.
According to reports, between October 2012 and late 2013 workers were already on forced pay cuts with some taking home less than $150.
A Southern Eye report quoted general manager of marketing and administration, Clara Sadomba, saying the decision to streamline activities at the mining giant is a ‘response to global market conditions.’ Sadomba claimed that those conditions have ‘negatively’ affected commodity prices in general and chrome prices in particular since 2008. She said as a result the company will undertake ‘various cost cutting initiatives in all its operations.’
However a research report from KPMG, one of the leading professional auditors in the world, contradicts Sadomba’s claims. KPMG research shows that chrome prices have been on a steady rise for years.
The report said there are disagreements between the workers and the management. Workers are said to be demanding that the top management staff should instead take salary cuts because they are allegedly earning high salaries and are entitled to too many benefits.
Workers who spoke to SW Radio Africa confirmed that the suggestion of voluntary exit had no takers, something which has forced the company to look into forced retrenchment.
Casper John Tshuma said the workers representatives and the management were in meetings on Monday to discuss the forced retrenchment option. He said: ‘The feeling amongst the workers is that the management is offering unreasonably low packages.’
According to Tshuma thousands of families stand to be affected by the impending lay off. Zimasco is one of the major employers in Kwekwe with almost all the households in suburbs like Fitchlea, New Town and Chicago directly dependent on the company.
The Midlands city is currently faced with high unemployment, with major companies like New Zimbabwe Steel yet to re-open. Formerly known as Ziscosteel, New Zimbabwe Steel was expected to reopen at the end of last month but according to sources that did not happen.