The Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development Mpho Balopi gave an update on his ministry’s State of Emergency (SoE) exit plan on Friday, revealing that 320 retrenchment notifications from different businesses were turned in.
The retrenchments were carried out while the SoE was in place, meaning the companies that succeeded must have had solid reasons, despite the strict SOE regulations imposed on businesses to not retrench. We are left with only 10 days before the end of SoE, and the number of retrenchment notifications will most likely soar.
Many more businesses are likely to take the route of retrenchment, thus increasing the already high rate of unemployment. While the minister announced that they have devised plans on exiting the SoE, he did not elaborate on them except that there are plans to amend some sections of the Employment Act as well as the Trade Dispute Act to give the minister powers to make regulations that will govern the procedures that must be followed for smoothening issues of employment and labour relations. It is not immediately clear how this is going to mitigate job losses.
As the SoE comes to an end in 10 days, the minister is still talking about plans to amend. How long will the amendments take? When will the amendments come into effect? Some companies have incurred huge losses, as a result of restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, and these companies are struggling to pay their employees.
Are there plans by the government to assist those companies to get back on track? And if so, what are the plans? Government should come up with plans to assist companies with recovery strategies for companies to retain their work forces.
One of the strategies that government can explore include suspending tax or reducing the tax rate to allow companies to recover, and yes, the other strategy would be the one that was applied during the lockdown, subsidising salaries, for companies that are struggling to pay workers. It is indeed important to amend labour laws, but how is amending the law going to stop companies from carrying out retrenchments? Also, by the time the new laws come into effect, many companies would have gone past plans to retrench.
The situation is sad, newspapers are overflowing with advertisements from different banks, repossessing houses from Batswana rendering them homeless! This is the time for our government to wake up and smell the coffee!