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African Sun retrenches 149 employees

By Nokuthaba Dlamini

Leading hotel group African Sun has retrenched hundreds of workers at its Victoria Falls facilities, amid accusations that the axed employees were offered paltry exit packages.

At least 149 employees at the group’s hotels in the resort town namely the Victoria Falls Hotel, Elephant Hills Resort and Kingdom Hotel have been shown the exit door.

Of the 149, 82 were drawn from Victoria Falls hotel, 36 from Elephant Hills, and 31 from the Kingdom hotel.

“We have computerised the retrenchment package due to you, which computation is in accordance with the retrenchment process under the Labour Amendment Act (No.5 of 2015,” Human Resources Executive Memory Macheka wrote in their retrenchment letters.

According to some of the affected former employees, the job cuts appear targeted at long serving workers.

The disgruntled ex-employees said they were given as little as US$200 in severance packages despite their long service.

According to the retrenchment package formula, a worker who served for 13 years and 42 weeks will be given ZWL$43 836 before tax deductions.

59-year-old Achfort Machokodo, who served the company for 30 years as a waiter at Victoria Falls hotel lamented the amount they were offered. .

“We were called as if there was a meeting that we were supposed to attend to, and when we got there, we were served with letters of contract termination,” distraught Machokodo to CITE.

“What troubles us the most is their failure to give us decent packages since we served for so many years.

“We are not contesting to be brought back to work but we want to be given decent send-off packages that can sustain us and our families in the next phase of life.

“It is however difficult for us to stand for ourselves even legally because some of our 67 colleagues were fired from the same hotel in 2009 for protesting for similar rights and they were never remunerated or brought back, despite the labour court ruling in the favour.

“Some of them have even died without getting justice, and this is history repeating itself.”

His sentiments were also echoed by another former Elephant Hills front office supervisor Taurai Mhange (50) who had served the organisation for 28 years.

“It was going to be better if they had told us the reasons why they chose us, and if it was the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, we were going to understand if they had proposed unpaid leave until the situation gets back to normal,” he said.

“My package does not match with what I was supposed to get when I was on payroll,” he added.

“Our packages have suddenly put under National Employers Council (NEC) scale yet since 2018 they paid us in US dollars and local currency without following that scale. In addition, we were told to vacate from the company houses by November, but where to when your package is around US$200 or less?”

Another long serving restaurant manager at the same hotel, Godknows Zimboror said he was puzzled by the way the company swiftly moved to fire people without consultations.

“They called as if there was a meeting, and when we got there they told us to go to our superior’s offices one by one,” the 28-year-old steward said.

“When it was my turn, the manager showed me a letter and said I should sign it and my employment had been nullified. I tried to ask what had just happened and why it had happened, and he told me to leave his office immediately without wasting his time further stating that he needed to attend to many people behind me as each of us was allocated 10 minutes.”

“We are not fighting with them, but we are only asking for transparency, fairness and dignified packages.”

Zimboror said they were not happy with a clause in the dismissal letters which seemed to suggest the both parties had agreed to the termination of contracts.

The clause reads: “… I agree to terminate my employment contract with African Sun Limited…I accept the remuneration package as the full and final settlement of all claims that I currently have or may have against African Sun Limited arising from my contract of employment.”

Macheka said in addition to retrenchment packages, the dismissed workers shall be paid cash lieu of three month’s medical aid cover and will also receive the outstanding portion of their earnings for April and May 2020.

She said any loans and other liabilities one owed will be deducted in full from the retrenchment package.

They are also supposed to handover any company assets in their possession before receiving their retrenchment package.

Efforts to get comment from the company’s Managing Director Edwin Shangwa were fruitless as he was said to be in a board meeting.

The African Sun is one of Zimbabwe’s leading hotel asset management companies with a portfolio of hotels including Great Zimbabwe hotel, Holiday Inn, Monomotapa, Troutbeck Resort, Hwange Safari Lodge and Caribbea Bay Resort.

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