Workers reel from wages non-payment

MORE than 80 000 workers out of the 350 000 in formal employment in 2014 did not receive their wages and benefits on time in both the public and private sectors, a report has revealed.

Staff Writer.

According to a report titled Working Without Pay: Wage Theft in Zimbabwe by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions think tank, the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (Ledriz), an estimated 80 000 workers have not received their wages and benefits on time.

The study was carried out in 2015 on 442 companies.

“Many of these workers have gone for more than 12 months without receiving their monthly wages but are still expected to come to work without fail,” the report states. “The non-payment of wages is no longer only a private sector phenomenon but has extended to the public sector, where many workers are also going without pay. Both the government and parastatal institutions have been complacent about dealing with this issue.”

The report revealed that wage non-payment affects an estimated 22 000-plus workers of urban councils (local government entities) 12 000 in agriculture, and more than 7 500 each in the security sector, automotive industry and railways.

Workers in several sectors are averaging more than 20 months without a paycheck, according to the findings of the report, and workers who are still formally employed are among those who are most affected by this.

“This failure to pay what workers are legally entitled to is wage theft in that it involves employers taking money that belongs to their employees and keeping it for themselves. This is a clear violation of international labour standards, as well as national legislation on the employment of workers,” the report notes. “Most urgently, this means that existing law be enforced and union pressure increased to curb wage theft and hold employers accountable for their violation of worker rights.”

The report also revealed four categories of wage non-payment in Zimbabwe.

In the first category are workers who are employed, but have not been paid anything for more than two months. This category comprises the highest number of workers of the four groups, 42,5% of the total cases. The second-highest category stands at 27,5% and comprises of those who are laid off with no wage and package, the report reveals.
The third-highest category consists of partially paid workers at 19,5% while the fourth is of those workers laid off without any package at 10,3%, according to the findings of the report.

A breakdown of the number of months workers have gone without wages showed the majority of unpaid workers go for between 13–24 months without being paid, a figure representing 38,6% of those surveyed. Other categories are those unpaid for between 7-12 months (34,8%), 25 months and above (15,9%) and 3-6 months (10,7%). Some workers, the report established, are inadequately paid in kind rather than in cash, with consumer goods or even alcohol in some cases.

“This phenomenon, which has been linked to debt bondage and even slavery, runs counter to widely adopted international treaties as well as national law,” the report states.

The report points out that workers interviewed for purposes of this research also highlighted that companies have introduced cost-cutting measures, but noted that it is only their benefits — lunch, teas, provision of transport and school bursaries — that have been denied, whereas the benefits of top management have remained intact.

This report, based on extensive research by Ledriz last year supported by the Solidarity Centre, which is a non-profit organisation that works with unions, non-governmental organisations and community groups worldwide to advance worker rights and achieve equitable economic development in countries where globalisation has made the lives of vulnerable people even more precarious.