Meikles explains retrenchment exercise

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Meikles Limited chairman John Moxon

HOSPITALITY and retail group Meikles Limited says its current retrenchment exercise is necessary for staff rationalisation to ensure the business remains viable.

BATANAI MUTASA
OWN CORRESPONDENT

The company served employees with termination of employment letters while at work last Friday in a nationwide exercise, which is reportedly targeted at releasing over 70% of its workforce.

Worker representatives told Southern Eye Business that Meikles Bulawayo had retrenched 33 workers from 43.

They accused the group of operating in bad faith, blaming managing director Phillip Ellse of introducing the exercise to get rid of permanent workers, who are more expensive to maintain than contract employees.

Affected employees expressed surprise saying they had not been notified of the development before receiving termination letters.

“The managing director said he would come and engage us one on one and we were still waiting for him, only to receive these letters,” one worker, Khumbulani Tshuma, said.

Speaking to Southern Eye Business, Meikles company secretary Thabani Mpofu said the development was unfortunate, but refuted sentiments that workers were unaware of the process.

“That is not accurate because since last year, management went round all branches in the country informing people that a rationalisation exercise was inevitable,” Mpofu said.

He said every action to ensure a fair process and amicable separation had been taken.

“We know the law requires us to give three months’ notice before terminating employment and to cater for that, we have undertaken to pay three months’ salary in lieu of that notice period. In addition, we have granted a gratuity payment in acknowledgement of the service a person has given us over the years,” he said.

Mpofu added that the company would consider all the affected employees for re-employment first when operations normalised.

Bulawayo branch workers’ committee chair Victor Takaruva told Southern Eye Business that there were a number of unresolved issues not addressed in letters of termination, including a disputed 2012 10% increment, which Meikles did not honour.

Takaruva said the company had awarded them shares as part of an indigenisation process, and from 2008 to 2010, workers were forced to go on unpaid leave. The matter is still in court, but Takaruva said termination letters did not refer to the issue.

However, Mpofu quelled the accusations that Meikles was being inconsiderate.

“Everything has been done according to strict dictates of the law but we have to understand that we are dealing with people who will understandably be emotional,” he said.

“We always try to treat our employees well even in tough times, for example, we closed the Gweru branch but kept workers on our payroll for over 18 months as we tried to resuscitate operations.

“ That is the kind of consideration we afford to all our employees.”

Mpofu empathised with employees saying the process was meant to be as non-confrontational as possible because management understood the workers’ frustrations.