THE recently concluded 2014 wage negotiations within the various national employment councils shows that most employees are still earning well below the Poverty Datum Line(pdl).
Some of the councils are still locked up in wage negotiations with some having gone for arbitration after breakdown in talks.
Zimbabwe’s poverty datum line currently stands at US$562 for a family of six per month.
According to the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe recorded 2014 minimum wages, most of the agreed wages range between US$170 and US$330.
There are only two NECs that have a minimum wage of more than US$500. Most of the wages do not include housing and transport allowances.
The minimum wage for the sugar milling sector is US$170 effective till March next year. The minimum wages include plastics manufacturing (US$198), ceramic (US$200), catering (US$200 including allowances of US$45 and US$30 for housing and transport respectively), printing (US$235 including allowances of US$78 and US$44 for housing and transport respectively), lumber(US$222,60) and mining (US$238,41).
Others include furniture (US$254,13), transport (US$256,52) with housing allowance of US$38,85 as well as the provision of transport) and tourism (US$248,65).
The minimum wage of the insurance sector is pegged at US$546 without housing and transport allowance.
The air transport sector is the only sector so far to agree on a minimum wage above the PDL.
Emcoz executive director John Mufukare said the current minimum wages are a reflection of the reality of the ground of a depressed economy.
“What we have are people who are working for an average of less than half of the PDL,” Mufukare said.
“That is the reality on the ground.”
He said workers have accepted the salaries they are earning as they could see how their companies were struggling to remain viable.
Meanwhile, the NEC sector for chemicals is appealing a decision by the arbitrator to allow employers to stagger salaries arguing that this was an endorsement of unfair labour practices.
The Nec for the clothing sector is appealing a decision by the arbitrator to reduce the minimum wage of workers in the sector by 20% that were employed from the August 1 this year.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary general, Japhet Moyo, such decisions by arbitrators would make it impossible for workers to earn a PDL linked minimum wage.
“At this rate, I do not see us achieving the PDL minimum wage,” Moyo said.
“My fear is that those who are supposed to uphold the (labour) laws such as arbitrators and the courts seem to be judicial activists by accepting what the law does not say.”
Workers Union have called for PDL linked salaries to cushion workers from the devastating effects of a deteriorating economy, a stance employers have argued that is not feasible due to viability problems.
President Robert Mugabe has promised a PDL linked minimum wage for the more than 236 000 civil servants this year.
However, in a letter of intent by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and Reserve Bank governor John Mangudya to the International Monetary Fund last month revealed that the increment awarded to civil servants this year, which falls well below the PDL, will be the only adjustment this year.
Economist Eric Bloch said it was difficult for employers to pay workers PDL linked wages as this could trigger more retrenchments to the 4 668 that have already been laid off. “If they are pay higher wages this could mean more retrenchments,” Bloch told businessdigest this week.
“Employers are already battling to pay the current salaries.”
He said attaining PDL minimum wages was not possible due to the shrinking of the economy. Bloch said paying PDL minimum wages is only possible if the economy improves drastically.