Cabinet Impasse Stalls Wage Negotiations

THE failure by the country’s three main political parties involved in power-sharing talks to form an all inclusive cabinet has had serious repercussions on wage negotiations.


President Robert Mugabe of Zanu PF, the two Movement for Democratic Change formations led by Morgan Tsvangirai  and Arthur Mutambara signed a power sharing agreement for an all inclusive government on September 15  but have failed to agree on ministerial posts in the new government, a development that is worsening the country’s already bleeding economy.
Speaking to businessdigest on Wednesday, Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe director, John Mufukare said they resolved at their recently ended annual congress that there could be no progress in wage negotiations without a political settlement in the country.
“The (Emcoz) congress resolved  that there was a need for a political solution before we can even talk about an economic turnaround. Anything we do can only be done in the context of a political agreement,” he said.
The Emcoz congress was held at Leopard Rock in Mutare on October 22-24.
Zimbabweans breathed a sigh of relief and their hopes for a final resolution of the economic crisis were raised when the three parties signed a power sharing agreement.
Unfortunately no progress has been made since then to bring the Zimbabwean people to the beginning of the path of recovery. Most companies have adopted a wait and see attitude with regards to salary negotiation as they await the allocation of cabinet posts.
“Workers are struggling to make ends meet. A political solution is needed to ensure smooth progressive salary negotiations,” Mufukare said.
The economic crisis is worsening with people spending many hours in endless cash queues. Salaries have completely failed to be adjusted in line with inflation.
The environment is characterised by hunger, high prices and company closures. It will not be surprising to see people dropping dead on the streets because of starvation.
Mufukare said Emcoz had received reports that wage negotiations between employers and workers within the 46 National Employment Councils have stalled after most labour unions affiliated to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions demanded that workers be paid in foreign  currency. The employer associations however argue that they could not do so as it was illegal.
“We understand there is actually very little going on in terms of negotiations at the moment after most workers have demanded wages to be paid in foreign currency,” Mufukare said.
He said the freeze in wage negotiations, would  worsen the plight of workers who would fail to report for duty.  
Many workers are reportedly failing to report to work, citing low wages which they are saying was not enough for one week.
About 70% of the employed population in Zimbabwe is said to be earning below the poverty datum line.
Mufukare said even with the increase in withdrawal limits for individuals from $50 000 to $500 000 a day by the Reserve Bank, “it would only provide temporary relief as it would soon be of little value, given the rate at which inflation was rising”..
“As Emcoz we are yet to formally receive ZCTU’s position on the demand by workers to be paid salaries in foreign currency,” said Mufukare.
“We would only take action on this position when we received a formal request from the labour body,” he said.
Mufukare said the economic crisis in the country was in such dire straits that some employers were now telling their workers to stay at home on full pay as this was more affordable than costs they would incur for employees transport.
“Capacity utilisation in some companies in the country was low that employees would only need to work three days a month. It does not make economic sense for them to come from Monday to Friday,” said Mufukare.
He said that before a breakthrough to the current political impasse, Emcoz could only look for temporary solutions just to survive the current economic meltdown.
Mufukare said the employers’ body had made several resolutions at the congress which include to move the process leading to the formation of an apex business body be properly funded and facilitated by skills that are familiar with the concept of tripartism and to continue to work with sector apex organisations in pursuing economic recovery initiatives.
David Govere was elected new Emcoz president  taking over from Johnson Manyakara. Also elected in the presidium are Pumula Simela Ncube (senior vice president) and Jack Murehwa (junior vice president).

 

By Kudzai Kuwaza