Monday, January 8, 2018

ATZ workers served with retrenchment letters

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By Codelia Mondela
The Government’s plan to facilitate the re-opening of Auto Tyres Zimbabwe (ATZ), formerly Dunlop, in the first quarter of this year has hit a snag after workers were issued with retrenchment letters last week.The letters, dated December 29, 2017, do not mention their terminal benefits.

In the 2018 National budget, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Patrick Chinamasa said the country’s sole manufacturer of commercial truck tyres had ceased operations but was scheduled to resume production during the first quarter of this year.
A worker at the Bulawayo-based firm who spoke on condition of anonymity said the company owed them salaries from 2016.
 
In 2016, the company retrenched 225 workers some of whom claimed yesterday that they are yet to get their benefits.
A majority of the remaining 75 workers have refused to sign the retrenchment forms before being paid their salaries dating back to September 2016, prompting management to schedule a meeting with them on January 23.
Workers who declined to be named said they suspected ATZ wanted to get rid of permanent staff so that it engages contract workers with limited rights and benefits, when the Government facilitates its re-opening.
A copy of the retrenchment letter, seen by Chronicle and signed by head of finance Ms Joanah Gwisai, reads:
“The company has been facing viability challenges for the last two years. Recapitalisation efforts and other initiatives to keep the company operating were made by management to improve the situation without success.
“These included, but not limited to: short time at work measures, working night shift in order to reduce the electricity bill from October 2015, reducing the prices of tyres in order to compete against cheap Chinese imports, utilised the Government intervention through S1 64 of 2016 which barred the importation of second-hand tyres.
However, the lax border system still posed a challenge and second-hand tyres continued to be a problem on the market.
Funding from NSSA, which was highly hopeful, was finally turned down at the 11th hour.
“The company stopped producing in November 2016. The major raw material supplier of rubber compound, NUVO of South Africa and the fabrics supplier from China stopped supplying due to the company’s failure to pay them and other creditors. The company records losses and accrues huge debt and faces litigation on multiple fronts.
“Consequently, management has made a decision to retrench staff in order to curtail continuing costs. Therefore, may you take this as your notice, from 1 January 2018 to 31 January 2018 of the company’s intention to retrench you from employment? You shall be formally advised of subsequent formalities.”
A worker who asked not to be named said they had become skeptical about their representatives who seemed to have sold out.
“About 225 workers were forced to resign in 2016 and the remaining 75 were issued with retrenchment letters last week. From September 2016, those of us who resisted retrenchment were given only $2 for transport and $1 for lunch instead of our wages.
Our representatives are strangely quiet. We are getting disturbing news from the grapevine,” said the worker.
“We hear this is the company’s way to get rid of permanent staff so that they would hire contract workers who would not claim exit packages,” said another employee.
Another said they felt cheated since they had worked very hard for ATZ but now they were given retrenchment letters without salaries being paid.
Ms Gwisai declined to comment, saying she only signed the letters and had no information to divulge.
One of the directors at ATZ, Mr Ben Samudzimu, said he could not respond as he was out of town.
A member of the works council, Mr Bheki Moyo said he did not know anything about the issue and could not give out any information.
A member of the workers’ committee also refused to comment saying anyone who is interested in the matter should attend a meeting that will be held on January 23 at the company. The Chronicle