GOVERNMENT’S much-touted Na-tional Economic Revival Program-me which is being promoted through the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) now hangs in the balance as there appe
ars to be no common ground between the social partners.
The TNF brings together business, labour and the government in an initiative meant to reverse the economic meltdown.
However, government despite espousing the need for co-operation, has said it is not obliged to consult the other partners before making economic decisions like fuel price increases and price controls.
A letter dated April 28, which is in the possession of the Zimbabwe Independent, shows that the government is by-passing its partners. The letter, written to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) by Public Service and Labour permanent secretary Lancaster Museka, reveals government’s preparedness to act unilaterally.
“First and foremost, while we on our part recognise that the TNF process allows for inputs from social partners, which inputs then form recommendations that are forwarded to cabinet for its consideration, it must be conceded that there are certain compelling decisions that government must take as a matter of urgency in the national interest,” Museka said.
“Secondly, it is quite apparent to government that the decision to increase the price of fuel would affect the majority of our citizens – workers included.
The next logical step to take would have been to come together to see how we could address the predicament of everyone affected by the increase so as to ameliorate their plight,” Museka said.
This is contrary to government’s claim that labour had agreed to the fuel increases.
The ZCTU, representing labour, has pulled out of the TNF following the government’s 200% fuel price hike. The government has been accused by other partners of taking arbitrary measures without consultation.
ZCTU secretary-general Wellington Chibhebhe reiterated this week that they would not participate in the negotiations.
“We had agreed to participate in the TNF and we thought all parties would negotiate in good faith,” said Chibhebhe.
“It now appears that the government is making independent decisions and attributing them to the TNF.
“Labour was worried that the TNF was being used as a platform by the government to effect its policies without consulting other partners. The cabinet has the final say in whatever is discussed at the forum,” said Chibhebhe.
The chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), Luckymore Zinyama, said the TNF had agreed on a trigger mechanism to regulate prices.
“We agreed that there should be a formula to trigger prices that has to be designed by the Tariff and Competition Commission,” said Zinyama.
“What business wanted was to have a system whereby if one variable changes it would affect others down the line,” he said.
Zinyama said they had not been notified of the current extension of price controls.
“We were not consulted on the latest price controls, at least at the policy level of the TNF,” said Zinyama.
This week investigations by the Independent revealed that government and business had agreed to remove price controls in exchange for wage increases.
Industrialists also said the move was meant to ensure the survival of industries which have been crippled by severe shortages of foreign currency and erratic supplies of electricity, fuel and coal.
The employers, most of whom have reduced their working hours owing to these shortages, are now being compelled to pay higher wages.
Minimum wages for workers in the agricultural sector, agro-processing and commerce have now been set at $23 070, $42 696 and $47 696 respectively.
The government though announced on Wednesday that it would extend price controls for a further six months after the expiry of the initial period at the end of this month.
Goods falling under the price control regime include agricultural chemicals, agricultural implements, seeds, beef, coal, cement, groceries, drugs, fertilisers, milk, packaging, stockfeeds and tyres.
Economist Tony Hawkins said the TNF should be disbanded since it was a “waste of resources”.
“The government is responsible for the economic problems we are experiencing,” said Hawkins.
“The TNF has done everything but to no avail. What we now need is a change of government. Economic solutions have failed,” he said.