By Steven Godfrey Mkweteza
As the effects of novel corona virus (covid-19) continue to haunt the local hospitality sector, one of the country’s leading hotel chain and tourism service providers Sunbird tourism Malawi is due to off0laod a total of 150 employees. It has been disclosed.
One of the employees, who opted for anonymity, confirmed that the management of the company disclosed its intention to sack the workforce from all its eight hotels and resorts strategically located across the country.
The impeccable source revealed that the directors disclosed during the recent general meeting held at mount soche hotel in Blantyre that it saw no justification in keeping the workers where there was no business due to corona virus (covid-19) pandemic.
According to him, the staff likely to be mostly affected by the chop would be the junior workers as the case before.
“I can confirm with you that some of us here are likely going to lose jobs as per management decision revealed to us during the recent meeting. Of-course, they promised us that when the condition return to normal, some of us will be reengaged,” he said.
The source said the tourism service provider has been heavily affected by the pandemic because it relies mostly on foreign visitors and government institutions for business.
He said that with the current restrictive preventative measures across the world, tourists are not visiting the country and most government ministries and departments are on a partial lock down-meaning civil servants are not visiting hospitality service providers across the country as the case is normal circumstances.
Government imposed a directive banning of public gatherings of more than 100, a policy that is unlikely favour the tourism sector. The restrictions applies to all gatherings including weddings, funerals, church gatherings, political rallies and government meetings as a measure to control the further spread of the covid-19 pandemic.
“Covid-19 has greatly affected our business since guests are not visiting the hotels as before and this has made some of the staff to be forced for a leave earlier in March this year. On the other hand, most indigenous Malawians could not give us business as they thought hotel services are meant mostly for the foreign tourists,” said the source.
The source said the hospitality company started witnessing the downward spiral in business since the political demonstrations perpetuated by the civil society groupings and political party leaders following the outcome of 2019 tripartite elections.
“Covid-19 has just worsened the situation. But business was not as good as compared to some years back. Foreign tourists were not patroninsing our places for fear of political violence. Tourists need a peaceful environment so they were afraid to come to Malawi while others left the country because of political tension,” he said.
However, the source revealed that some of the directors of the company namely Philip Madinga have been resisting the decision to fire the staff willy nilly, saying they saw some more business opportunities coming hence, no need to lay-off some staff.
Numerous efforts to talk to the human resource manager for the sunbird proved futile due to communication challenges.
In his earlier media interview, secretary general for the Malawi Congress of Trade union (MCTU) Dennis Kalekeni appealed to the authorities to come up with interventions to cushion the masses as they feel hard done by the effects of covid-19 pandemic.
He said in many cases that employees were told to wait at home for re-engagement, many employers do not honor their pledge as they replace them with their relatives for the post, leaving others still waiting in vain.
Kalekeni urged the employers to consider revising up the money they give out to the dismissed employees for long service since in most cases; they are not enough to sustain the fired workforce for long.
This could not be the first time for sunbird to affect such measure. Currently, some of the employees were sent on forced leave earlier in March because there were no customers to attend to due to covid-19 pandemic. Some others were sacked while some are receiving meager or half salaries as compared to what they used to be paid before.
Sunbird hotels and resorts have the unique business leisure hotels namely Sunbird Capital, Mount Soche Hotel, Nkopola, Livingstonia, Sunbird Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Thawale and Ku Chawe.