Employment councils abandon wage negotiations

SEVERAL national employment councils (Necs) have abandoned wage negotiations with their employers due to acute financial difficulties faced by the sectors, businessdigest has established.

Kudzai Kuwaza

As workers push for better working conditions and remuneration, most business owners are either downsizing or shutting down due to operational challenges, largely stemming from an unfavorable macroeconomic environment.

According to a report compiled by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, detailing collective bargaining agreements in the various sectors for 2014, several Necs that include Motor Vehicle Manufacturing, Grain Milling, Glass Manufacturing, Rubber and Allied as well as Pulp and Paper sectors have abandoned wage negotiations as companies that fall under these sectors are struggling to remain viable.

“Some sectors that have been so hard hit by economic challenges that the collective bargaining process in terms of wage negotiations has become superfluous” said arbitrator and labour lawyer Johnlife Mawire on Tuesday.

“All the same Necs should continue to meet to discuss various issues such as research and to provide a guide to companies that fall under them,” Mawire added.

The lawyer said that in his capacity as arbitrator he awarded a 0% increment to the Sweets and Confectionaries sector after visiting the various companies that fall under the sector. Mawire said he could not give an increment to a sector that has been plagued by serious viability problems which include obsolete equipment.

The report also notes that there were a number of deadlocks within several Necs which include the catering sector where the employees demanded a 15% increment with the employer refusing to implement any wage increment and the security sector where workers proposed a 67% increment with the employer also refusing to increase wages.

Other deadlocks were recorded in the banking sector where the employees pushed for an increment of 12,3% with the employer only prepared to increase wages by 1,64%.

Employees in the leather and shoe sector proposed a 3% increment, but the employer refused to increase the current wages.

Several deadlocks were recorded in companies that fall under the food and allied industries sector. Among them workers in the brewing sector were seeking an increment of US$400 with the employer refusing to increase wages.

Employees in the detergent edible oils and fats sector got an arbitral award of 10%. The employers appealed against the award and it was reduced to 2,5% at the Labour Court.

In the commercial sectors, the report noted, there were no negotiations as the appeal by the employers on the 2013 arbitration award of 10,5% to workers had not been determined as at the end of 2014. There were also no negotiations in the textile sector as there is a dispute on the need to negotiate “because of changed circumstances”. The dispute has been taken to arbitration.

Some of the NECs such as the clothing and motor sectors extended wage agreements from 2013 to 2014. The communication and allied sector agreed that negotiations be carried out at company level for companies falling under the sector such as Zimpost and Telone.

The Necs which agreed on wage increments in 2014 include insurance (4%), ceramics and associated products (14,3%), printing, packaging and newspaper(4,5%), battery manufacturing industry(2,5%) sugar milling (6,25%), mining(5%) and tourism (5,5%).

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