By Alois Vinga
IT is a breezy Sunday morning and Backdoor Mhunza, a labourer at a farm in Chiriseri Communal Lands, is trying hard to digest the biblical verse which his priest, Father Michael shared.
It was drawn from Proverbs 12 v 11 stating: “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.”
As he ponders in his heart, he reflects on how he has endured low salaries for the last decade despite working so hard for his employer. He imagines how some of his co-workers who retired received pensions not even equivalent to US$400 despite dedicating 30 years in service.
“I work like an elephant, but my family eats like ants, why am I like this? Where exactly am I getting it wrong,” Mhunza ponders quietly.
Such are the circumstances being experienced by most Zimbabwean workers who do not realise any benefits from their toils and have had to seek answers to their miseries from divinity.
This is despite the fact that the country has an internationally acclaimed education, with the literacy rate of 86,5%, according to indexmundi.com.
The quality of work produced by the country’s citizens remains top notch, with the country’s skills highly sought after in other countries.
Recent data shared by top labour economist, Prosper Chitambara reveals that on average, professionally graded workers are taking home an equivalent of US$180.
“Which is very lower to the incomes being earned by other workers in the region like South Africa. As of the second quarter 2021, the average salary paid to South African employees in the formal sector was up marginally by 1,7% from R23 127 in February 2021 to R23 526, almost equivalent to US$1 568 in May 2021. This is 9,7% higher compared to the same period in 2020. In Zambia the national average salary is K4393 equivalent to US$258,” he said.
Chitambara added that the average salary in Mozambique at 40 200 meticais per month, which is equivalent to US$629,86, while in Eswatini the average income is US$3 580.
Apart from poor earnings, The International Trade Union Confederation 2021 index ranked Zimbabwe among the world’s ten worst destinations for the working class after tracking a series of violations which include the forceful clampdown of workers demonstrations.
But what really boggles the mind is the mismatch between government’s efforts to spur the economy, the big cake being enjoyed by employers and the growing selfishness among the elite business class.
In the full year of 2021, one of the country’s top performing Innscor Africa Limited posted recorded revenue of ZW$56 486 billion during the year under review, representing a 406% increase on the comparative year on the back the back of volume growth across all businesses as the introduction of new products.
In the six months ended August 31, 2021, telecommunications giant, Econet Wireless posted a profit of it of ZW$6,6 billion, translating to a 5 259% increase in profit.
These two companies are a mirror revealing the good performance being recorded by most Zimbabwean companies listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange without the benefits trickling down to employees.
Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe president, Demos Mbauya did not respond to questions sent to him by NewZimbabwe.com despite having given assuarances.
Renowned economist, Doctor Godfrey Kanyenze bemoaned the current deficits and recommended that the Tripartite Negotiation Forum (TNF) is the only way out.
“What we see is the widening gap of inequality, with “the haves” amassing more wealth while the workers continue to drown in poverty. Worse still companies are enjoying a lot of favourable policies like duty exemptions, access to foreign currency at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Foreign Exchange Auction yet they even decline to pay for taxes in the same currency,” Kanyenze said.
“They charge for goods and services in US$ or rate salaries at prices which are rated against parallel market rates. There is an urgent need to deal with the matter at the TNF,” he said.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president, Florence Taruvinga said the fact that companies have never shared their profits with workers, they are very few which is why we are demanding for US Dollar salaries to restore the purchasing power of workers.
“Most if not all companies are pegging rtgs prices using black market rate which relates to 100% US. We are pushing for restoration of the salaries that workers earned in 2018. It’s a struggle that is continuing and deepening hence making use of any strategy available which will yield results. There is no way employers would opt for any sharing option, that has never been a character of capital,” she said.
She said workers’ demands are enshrined in social justice and equity leading to Decent work for all workers and that we should continue to use all strategies that are at our disposal to make sure that workers are dignified.
“Despite continuing to encourage the use of the Works Councils to negotiate and improve the outcomes of National Employment Councils, the journey has been futile because core issues have not been addressed,” she said.
Taruvinga added that they are promoting social dialogue as a means of achieving parity and social justice in the workplace whilst at the same time building the capacities of our trade union negotiators and making sure that every action to alleviate is taken.