Lay-offs ‘not the only way’

2009-05-21 00:00

INNOVATIVE alternatives to retrenchment do exist and they can negate the devastating consequences for the individual, as well as for the company, of removing employees from the system.

This is the view of Tim Smeeton, MD of the Production Management Institute of Southern Africa (PMI), who said temporary employment services (TES) have a key role to play in managing the impact of the financial meltdown on the workplace.

He has argued that the alternatives include:

• Enrolling employees targeted for retrenchment on lear­nership programmes through sector education and training authorities (SETAs) — for which more than enough government funding already exists. SARS also provides tax rebates for such learnerships.

• Flexible working hours, allowing fewer jobs to be spread across the greatest possible number of employees.

“Where skills are being advanced, wages are subsidised through SETA funding and SARS learnership tax rebates. Industry should also be looking to spread fewer jobs across a broader affected workforce, without creating unemployment.”

Smeeton said employers, employees, trade unions and the government simply have to put aside their preferred agendas in order to deal effectively with a national crisis.

“As many as 40 000 jobs could be lost in South Africa by the end of June this year. The notion of permanent contracts with the full set of traditio­nal benefits as the ‘first and only prize’ for employment, has to shift.”

Smeeton added that the TES industry has a positive role to play in sustaining jobs. Traditionally this role has been as an entry to the job market for first-time work- seekers.

However, as the effects of the worldwide recession begin to cut deeper into South African industry, key priorities should be employee retention, focusing on alternatives to retrenchment; skills and human capital development; and opening up new work experience opportunities, especially for first-time work-seekers.

This will go a long way in develo­ping South Africa’s already stunted human capital resource base, Smeeton argued.

“In departing from traditional employment practices, temporary employment arrangements allow employers to reskill or retrain staff and redeploy them to other areas of the organisation where they are needed.”

— Witness Reporter..

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