Picture: Leon Lestrade. African News Agency/ANA.
Picture: Leon Lestrade. African News Agency/ANA.

Retrenchments on the rise

By Bulelwa Payi Time of article published Nov 17, 2020

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According to the latest figures released by Stats SA, the number of unemployed people rose by 2.2 million to 6.5 million between the second and third quarters in 2020.

On the expanded definition of unemployment, the figure stands at 43.1%.

The Quarterly Labour Force Survey also showed that the unemployment rate for those aged between 15 and 24 years old was at 61.3%.

Cosatu Western Cape regional secretary Malvern de Bruyn said the federation's offices were inundated with complaints from workers of retrenchments and unfair dismissals over the past few months.

De Bruyn said many workers faced a bleak holiday season period as some had told the federation that employers would not be paying them bonuses as well as a result of the COVID-19 impact.

"We urge employers to be transparent and engage workers when it comes to possible retrenchments and company closures. If they fail to do this, we will deal with them", he said.

De Bruyn said most of the retrenchments were affecting the manufacturing sector, which had already suffered severe setbacks over the past years.

"We are faced with a disaster. Out of 200 people retrenched almost 80% are likely not to find a job again", said De Bruyn.

Labour lawyer Michael Bagraim described the unemployment rate as the worst in the world and warned that it would be difficult for the labour market to absorb those who were entrenched.ss

He also described the retrenchment cases lodged at the CCMA as the "worst I have seen. And I have been practising for 38 years now".

The hardest-hit sectors, he added, included tourism and the related hotel, accommodation and restaurant industries.

"The only solution to unemployment is small businesses; the government will have to deregulate so that they are not subjected to a harsh regulatory environment as big business," Bagraim said.

He added that those who had shouldered the brunt of the economic crisis worsened by the pandemic were black women, the youth and unskilled.

"Unfortunately those are the poorest of society ," Bagraim added.

A former employee of one of the big hotels on the Atlantic Seaboard, Xoliswa Tamane, lost her job after working as a chef for 10 years.

"In March, when the news of the Covid-19 outbreak surfaced, management told us that it was looking at a rotational work schedule. But this was overtaken by the implementation of the lockdown and we were all told to stay at home.

’’However, a small group of employees was still kept to look after guests who were still at the hotel," she said.

Several months later, a large group of employees was offered "voluntary retrenchments“, according to Tamane, and the employees took the matter to the CCMA.

Outside the CCMA offices in Darling Street stood, among many, others who had come for mediation after being retrenched.

"I worked in a restaurant in the Cape Town CBD which closed during lockdown. It has since reopened with few staff members and I was among the unlucky ones who were not rehired. Now all I want is a fair payout," she said.

Tamane said that she would now start her own business from her home in Langa.

Bagraim said that South Africa should look to countries such as Nigeria, Malawi and Mauritius which had managed to turn around economic challenges.

"They have deregulated small businesses. In South Africa, the laws stymie the informal sector. This high unemployment rate is worse than an earthquake," Bagraim added.

Weekend Argus

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