Wage negotiations drag into second quarter

Most National Employment Councils are still locked in wage negotiations for 2014 after failing to agree with in the first quarter of the year with some heading for arbitration after a complete breakdown in talks, an official has revealed.

Kudzai Kuwaza

Workers have been advocating a minimum wage linked to the Poverty Datum Line (PDL) which currently stands at US$540, a stance vigorously resisted by employers arguing that it is not feasible due to low productivity. Negotiations have dragged on with employer and employees still poles apart in some sectors such as mining.

Wage negotiations between the Associated Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe and the employer body, the Chamber of Mines, are heading for arbitration after the parties declared a deadlock twice.

The two parties are one deadlock away from heading for arbitration.

The Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) executive director John Mufukare told businessdigest that only a few of the more than 50 Necs have reached an agreement.

“There has been virtually no change in negotiations within the Necs with only very few reaching an agreement,” Mufukare said.

“It is a very, very worrying development. But the issue is that there just isn’t any money and the workers have not accepted that.”

He revealed that the majority of Necs have approached the Ministry of Labour to obtain a Certificate of No Settlement.

Mufukare expressed alarm at the increasing number of retrenchments. The retrenchment board approved at least 400 applications from various companies to downsize their staff in the first quarter of this year.

“This has gone beyond frightening. We are looking at the survival of the formal sector,” he said.

He said the deterioration of the formal sector was evidenced by the drastic reduction of companies participating in events such as the annual commemorations of the World Occupational Safety and Health day.

Mufukare revealed that three years ago about 50 companies took part in the commemorations but only 11 had participated this year.
“If this development does not frighten you, then I do not know what will,” Mufukare pointed out.

He said Emcoz would next week meet with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions where the issue of wage deadlocks and retrenchments among other issues would be discussed.

Meanwhile, the 2014 wage negotiations between the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union Zimbabwe (Gapwuz) and employers have already reached its first deadlock.

An official involved in the negotiations , who requested anonymity after being gagged from going public about the discussions, said negotiations in the general agriculture sector stalled after employers refused to increase wages.

“We held our first meeting and registered our first deadlock. We failed to agree after the employer said they wanted to maintain the same wages as they could not afford to pay an increment,” the official said “ They said the reason they could not afford to increase wages is due to poor tobacco sales and a dismal farming season.”

He said they had rejected the employer’s position and had told them “to go rethink” their position. The official said they would be meeting either in the first or second week of this month to try break the deadlock.

“They must increase the wage of the general agriculture workers especially in this harsh economic environment. Their current wages cannot sustain them.”

He, however, declined to reveal the figure they had proposed as the minimum wage.

The government’s land reform in 2000 has wreaked havoc on farmworkers with thousands being displaced as a result.

The union’s membership as a result has dwindled from over half a million in 2000 to just 20 000 currently. This is further reduced to 15 000 during the off season.