Lay offs at bank spark outcry

rbzHARARE - A fresh conflict may be brewing between the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) and the Finance minister over planned lay-offs of some 2200 members of staff at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

ZFTU is a breakaway from ZCTU at the instigation of Zanu (PF) and led by Alfred Makwarimba. The union has been warned against retrenchment of 85 per cent of workers in the ongoing restructuring exercise in the central bank. “There are about 2,600 employees at the bank but the board will reduce the staff to around 400,” Finance minister Tendai Biti was quoted in the state-run Sunday Mail newspaper.

He said the slashing of staff was the result of new legislations to restrict the bank’s operations to managing monetary policy, monitoring the banking industry and to act as lender of last resort. A source at the central bank who spoke on condition of anonymity said the retrenchment news had shaken the financial institution, and said workers had already been informed of the rationalisation exercise that would create room for employees to retire voluntarily.

In a confidential letter to the Finance minister shown to The Zimbabwean, the union said that the plan was counter productive and would therefore be resisted. The union explained that the current financial crisis in the country, which critics say has its root in poor management practices by governor Gideon Gono, created the major issues that culminated in high non-performing central bank.

The federation argued that the crisis was not caused by workers and as such should not be made to bear the brunt. “We are obliged to write and reject the proposed exit of over 2000 staff of the Central Bank as reported to us by one of our affiliates,” said the letter.

The union urged the government to adopt a more scientific and humane approach to reforms at the central bank. It warned against creating a situation that could threaten the welfare of workers. But Biti told The Zimbabwean the retrenchment had been okayed by all parties in the unity government. RBZ workers’ have said they will resist the move and mobilise workers for massive rallies to campaign to protect their jobs.

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