- Employees suspended for lack of business
- Cites COVID-19, closed borders and state of emergency
- Says it has failed to secure alternative business
- Masa Hotel is one of gov’t’s quarantine centres
Aver 50 employees at Masa Square Hotel, now Protea Hotel, have been suspended with immediate effect from 10 August due to lack of business caused by COVID-19, The Botswana Gazette can reveal.
“I regret to inform you that the management of the company has taken a decision to suspend operations due to challenges presented by COVID-19,” reads a savingram signed by the Chief Operations Officer, Andrew Kamanga. “The business has not been operating at its maximum for more than six months, despite efforts by the company to secure alternative business due to the pandemic, the state of emergency and the fact that the borders are closed.
“Premised on the above, your contracts of employment are hereby suspended with immediate effect until further notice. You are therefore not required to report for duty during this period and the company would also not pay you monthly salaries until you are advised otherwise. You will not accumulate leave on leave not worked.”
However, certain departments of the Gaborone CBD hotel will continue working for care and maintenance of the premises.
Kamanga has confirmed the letter but referred The Botswana Gazette to one Mr Mabina regarding enquiries about if the employees were consulted beforehand and if the suspensions were done in consultation with the office of the Commissioner of Labour but Mabina’s phone was not answered.
The Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, Mpho Balopi, said he was unaware of the developments but promised to engage relevant authorities at his ministry. Several employees who spoke to this publication on the condition of anonymity said they were stunned by their suspensions.
“We have never been consulted,” said one. “We were shocked when we were told that our contracts had been suspended and we were told not to come to work until further notice.”
Protea Hotel has been one of the government’s quarantine centres for Batswana returning from high risk countries for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the MP for Maun West who is also the Leader of Opposition, (LOO), Dumelang Saleshando, recently asked the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, if government had outlined plans to assist employees in the tourism and hospitality industry as one of the hardest hit by COVID-19.
“Tourism is one of the sectors that have been massively affected, so you cannot adopt a ‘one-size-fit- all’ approach in assisting companies in that particular sector,” Matshe said. “The three-month wage subsidy was not enough for companies in that sector. It is going to be difficult for employers in that sector to pay employees.”
Matsheka said government’s proposed Economic Response Plan includes assistance to all businesses, workers and households.
“This resulted in 209 destinations worldwide having adopted COVID-19 travel restrictions, including Botswana,” the analysis showed. “The latest research from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that up to 75 million jobs are at immediate risk. The research reveals a potential Travel & Tourism GDP loss of up to $2.1 trillion in 2020. For Botswana, tourism and hospitality is the third largest contributor to the national economy, accounting for almost 12 percent of GDP. The sector is a key contributor to job creation, skills transfer and the development of new competencies.”