BY KUDZAI KAWAZA
TOMORROW the world commemorates May Day. It is a day set aside to celebrate workers across the globe and it is a day for employers to take stock of achievements they have made.
In Zimbabwe however there is very little to celebrate as most workers are operating under a cloud of uncertainty as the spectre of job losses looms large and with most workers struggling to make ends meet as their wages cannot match the rate at which the cost of living is rising.
The day comes as companies lay off workers due to various factors which range from adjusting to the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic to the drive towards the digitalisation of operations. Financial institutions which include CBZ, Stanbic and First
Capital Bank as well as State-owned telecommunications company TelOne have all announced plans to retrench workers which will increase the already high unemployment rate in the country.
Workers Day will be commemorated at a time when teachers are at loggerheads with the government over poor working conditions. This has led to the government threatening to dock salaries of teachers who do not report for duty in line with the government’s no-work, no-pay policy. The teachers however remain defiant as the deadlock further disrupts the school term which has already been severely impacted by the Covid-19 scourge. Elsewhere in this paper we report the deadlock between organised labour on the one hand and business and government on the other under the Tripartite Negotiating Forum over the minimum wage which resulted in the walkout by the workers’ representatives. The continued delays in talks only adds to the workers’ woes.
Workers Day also comes at a time when the cost of living has shot up despite the decrease in inflation. The cost of living has shot up to ZW$28 362 from ZW$26 560 in March, data from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) indicated yesterday. ZimStat said a Zimbabwean consumer now requires $5 672,47 to stay above the poverty datum line (PDL), also known as the Total Consumption Poverty Line (TCPL). This figure was $5 312,19 in March.
In December last year, ZimStat stopped reporting on the PDL for a family of five to focus on individual data.
It said this was in line with international standards. But translated to an average family of five, the basket adds up to $28 362.
Workers Day will also be held amid revelations by the Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe that 30% of formal jobs were lost last year due to the advent of the Covid-19 scourge. This is in stark contrast to claims by the government that job creation has been enhanced under President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s leadership. It is also at variance with official statistics that there is only 6% unemployment in the country.
Given these circumstances, Workers Day will be a bleak affair for most.