Mbabane: The undesirable effects of the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus continue being felt more especially on the hospitality industry as Sun International has reportedly slashed its employees’ salaries by a whopping 40 percent, went on to serve its employees with layoff letters and halted all its services indefinitely.
Shortly after the COVID-19 outbreak, which resulted in a sharp decline of international tourists, mostly from South Africa and Mozambique, Sun International swiftly closed the operations of the Lugogo Sun on March 23, 2020 as a desperate move to stay afloat amid the devastating economic effects of the novel coronavirus.
In the press statement released on March 22, 2020, General Manager Lance Rossouw said they did not retrench their permanent staff members but sent them on extraordinary leaves. The general manager explained that some of its services were continuing at the Royal Swazi Spa Hotel, Casino and Convection Centre hence the remaining staff members were incorporated in the above services.
Rossouw emphasized that during these operations, strict COVID-19 regulations would be followed. Against that backdrop, the quandary now is that permanent staff will have to swallow a bitter pill of the radical cut of their salaries by 40 percent.
Independent News has learnt that Sun International management has closed all the other services which were earlier on announced to continue and there was no formal press briefing to detail the last resolution of laying off the workers.
An unswerving source close to the matter told this publication that the management allegedly informed the staff hastily about its devastating last move of cutting their salaries and downsizing. The source revealed that it was only top management that was left behind and later on, some of them (management) also ended up not reporting for work after the announcement of the lockdown extension was made by the Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini on Thursday April 16, 2020.
Affected employees told Independent News that the hotel management decided to close until further notice and there have been ongoing meetings about the cut of the salaries by 40 percent. The sources disclosed that the internal workers union filed a letter of complaint with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, pleading with it to intervene on their behalf on this matter. The staff is complaining about that , in as far as the hotel is under a lot of pressure, it would be unfair for them to be paid far less half of their salaries.
Efforts to get Sun International General Manager Lance Russow were futile as he did not respond to a questionnaire sent to him on Tuesday last week. Follow-up questions on the matter were sent via SMS on Tuesday but still could not respond. He was also telephoned through his personal cell number but still could not respond,
Labour Commissioner in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Mthunzi Shabangu told this publication that as the ministry, they cannot get into details of private companies’ affairs more especially at this time of the outbreak of the coronavirus. “We cannot openly disclose company affairs on labour issues until that particular parties have agreed that their matter can be discussed publicly” said Shabangu.
When asked if cutting of employees’ salaries was part of the regulations which had to be applied by businesses to survive during the COVID-19 outbreak, Shabangu avoided the question, and said government has recently given out a list of guidelines for companies to follow when dealing with such matters.
At the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Sun International reported that it lost E3 million worth of bookings through cancellations on March 11-12, 2020, while Hilton Garden Inn reported to have lost over E1million of business through cancellations in one day and Mountain Inn reported to have lost E500 000 of business when South African President declared a state of disaster in that country.
Despite the devastating effects of the pandemic, government has not yet come out clear on how it will assist the hospitality industry financially. Government only announced that it was coming to the rescue of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that have been affected by the new coronavirus and will advance an amount to the tune of E90 milliion
Announcing the relief, Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini said it was evident that the pandemic was severely affecting businesses, particularly small enterprises, adding that despite this reality, government is committed to assist businesses to survive this partial lockdown. The PM said government does not have the financial muscle and enough resources to save businesses from collapse but they remain determined to meet these businesses halfway and minimize the adverse impact of the pandemic on the economy.
The PM said beneficiaries of the relief system are those businesses with a turnover of E8 million or less, mainly which are small and medium enterprises, adding that the businesses must have been tax compliant, on time, up to the 2019 tax year.
“This relief will be directed to businesses that have continually supported the development of the country by complying with their tax obligations, which means they have filed and paid their taxes on time up to the 2019 tax year,” said the PM. This amount will be paid by way of tax refunds through the Eswatini Revenue Authority in monthly instalments of 25% of the actual tax paid in 2019. The PM said specific guidelines on this relief will be provided through the Eswatini Revenue Authority.
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