Dry spell threatens to scuttle wage negotiations

THE dry spell currently being experienced in the country is threatening to scuttle negotiations for a wage increment for the tea sector this year, businessdigest has learnt.

By Kudzai Kuwaza

The spell has prompted fears that the country could experience a drought, resulting in the need for government to import food.

General Agriculture and Plantation Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Gapwuz) acting secretary-general Golden Magwaza told businessdigest that talks they intend to hold with employers in the tea sector over an increase in the wages of employees could be jeopardised by the dry spell.

“The outlook for this agricultural season is very bleak given the lack of rain,” Magwaza said.

“This could affect our negotiations for a wage increase in the tea sector because if there is no rain, then it means we might not be able to get a wage increase. It is a very worrying situation.”

Employers in the sector include Tanganda Tea Company and Southdown Holdings Ltd.

However, Magwaza said the wage dispute in the timber sector remains, with the case spilling into the Supreme Court, where it is yet to be heard.

Employers in the timber sector have gone to the Supreme Court to quash the ruling by the Labour Court that the minimum wage for workers in the timber sector remain at US$150 and not be reduced to US$105 which they were advocating.

Employers in the timber sector include Allied Timbers, Border Timbers and Wattle Company.

Magwaza said Gapwuz is optimistic that employment in the agricultural sector will increase significantly with the planned revival of Kondozi Estates by the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda).

Arda board chairperson Basil Nyabadza revealed this at a meeting held in Mutare last week. The estate was run down during the chaotic land reform in 2004 and has been lying fallow since.

“We hope that farms like Kondozi, which used to employ 5 000 workers, will be revived and I am sure that at least 3 000 will be employed when that happens,” Magwaza said.

He warned, however, that the increase in jobs for farm workers will not necessarily result in better working conditions

Farm workers have borne the brunt of the land reform. The number of farm workers in Zimbabwe has declined from more than half a million in 2000 when land reform began, to less than 20 000, according to Gapwuz.

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