Gapwuz secretary general Gertrude Hambira said farm disruptions had a devastating impact on workers.
“The current farm invasions have resulted in us losing a lot of labour on the farms,” Hambira said. “We are still collecting information, but results so far have shown that we have lost at least
1 500 workers this month.”
She said the union, which has a membership of 20 000 farm workers, felt betrayed by the inclusive government which had set the end of farm invasions as one of its objectives.
“Since the formation of the inclusive government in February last year, 4 500 farm workers have lost their jobs due to unrest on the farms. This shows that the formation of the inclusive government has done nothing to improve the lives of farm workers,” Hambira said.
The areas most affected by these job losses, Hambira said, were Mashonaland West, particularly in Chegutu and Karoi and Manicaland’s Odzi area.
She said that the union had raised the issue with Tsvangirai’s office and the ministries of Labour and Agriculture but were yet to receive a response.
Hambira said the union was advocating for a wage increase for its members. Farm workers are currently earning US$32 a month, a figure she said was far from adequate.
She said the union last held wage negotiations in August last year.
The current wage, she said, was not enough and were advocating for their members to earn a living wage which is at least a quarter of the Poverty Datum Line currently estimated at US$454.
Hambira said most employees — especially new farmers resettled during the land reform — were not paying workers resulting in some of them downing their tools.
“We are having problems with employers who are new farmers as they are always arguing that they cannot pay wages because they have just been resettled on the farms. We wonder for how long they will remain new farmers given they were resettled 10 years ago. Where have you seen a baby that never grows after 10 years,” Hambira questioned.
She said the union had embarked on an exercise to help educate farm workers on the new constitution and encourage them to contribute during the outreach programme to be carried out by the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee.
Gapwuz’s membership has been whittled down from 200 000 members before the land reform programme to just 20 000 members. This was caused mainly by the chaotic nature of the exercise.