Mining sector to meet over minimum wage stalemate

THE Chamber of Mines will meet the Associated Mineworkers’ Union of Zimbabwe this month over a deadlock on the increase in the minimum wage for this year with both parties having moved from their original positions, businessdigest has established.

Kudzai Kuwaza

The employer body had initially told the mineworkers that there will be no wage increment this year while the workers’ union had begun by tabling a demand for a 10% increment.

However sources told businessdigest this week that the two parties have met informally since then to further discuss the issue with a formal meeting set for February 22.

“We have met informally and both parties have since made some movement, but with no agreement,” a source privy to the discussions revealed.

“Employers have moved from not giving anything at all because of the performance of the economy to around 1% while the mineworkers have considered coming down to between 4-5% from the original demand of 10%.”

One employer who was involved in the talks said they had offered a 1% increment “even though common sense tells us we should not do so.”

The mineworkers, the employer revealed, laughed off the chamber’s offer, calling it derisory.

The differences between the two parties could set the tone for a tense meeting later this month.

Sources said given the differences, they cannot rule out a deadlock with the case going to arbitration, adding however that there is very little appetite by both parties to go that route.

“Arbitration is fraught with difficulties and the process is very unpredictable,” the source said.

The negotiations come at a time when the economy is in the doldrums characterised by a debilitating liquidity crunch which has resulted in a severe cash shortage, capacity utilisation of less than 50%, company closures and widespread job losses.

The two parties agreed a 1,5% increment to the minimum wage for the sector for 2016 which brought the minimum wage to the current US$249,24.

Despite the slight increment for 2016, a number of mining companies applied for exemption from paying the increment, citing viability challenges.

Mining sector output recorded a negative growth of around -3,4% and -2,5% in 2014 and 2015 respectively as most minerals recorded declines in output, led by chrome, which reported the largest decline of 48% in output, followed by coal and diamonds at -31% and -30% respectively.

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