WORKERS in the agricultural sector have been awarded an 118,18% salary increment, which will see the lowest paid employee receiving ZW$1 200 a month, only enough to buy a standard pair of shoes.
According to a collective bargaining agreement seen by businessdigest, the highest paid employee would now get ZW$2 400, up from ZW$1 100. Before the adjustment, the least paid employee was earning ZW$550.
The new wage adjustment, which became effective on May 1 2020, comes at a time the cost of living for a family of six, as measured by the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, had skyrocketed by ZW$324 to ZW$7 171 by the end of April last month.
The wage agreement, signed on May 22, was reached by labour unions in the sector, which included the Zimbabwe Agricultural Employers Organisation, Commercial Farmers’ Union, Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union, Commercial Farmers’ Union, Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, General and Plantation Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe and Horticulture General Agriculture and Plantation Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe as well as the Horticulture General Agriculture and Plantation Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe.
As part of the agreement, an establishment or employees may apply to the National Employment Council within 14 days for an exemption or partial exemption or review from paying wages as set out in the schedule, stating the reasons why that application should be considered.
Progressive Agriculture and Allied Industries Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe general-secretary Raymond Sixpence said the increments were a mockery.
“The money is not even enough to buy groceries. It’s not working. They want to see workers suffering. Who can survive on ZW$1 200 today? On top of that, there are deductions from the National Social Security Authority, among others,” he said. “Rentals are paid in forex. At least they should have given workers ZW$4 000, it was going to be better. With the current forex exchange rate, the workers are getting only US$20. It’s now worse than Rhodesia. A pensioner is now getting more than an employee.”
He said government should also consider productivity-based salary in the agricultural sector.
Sixpence said employers should not hide behind the “we are incurring losses” mantra. He asked: “If they are not making profit, why are they not closing the farms?”
Analysts say wage negotiations have become difficult due to runaway inflation which stood at 676,39% in March. This has amplified calls by labour bodies for workers to be paid in foreign currency, which is a better store of value.