By Alois Vinga
GOVERNMENT says it is not in a position to force private sector employers to pay their workers’ salaries during the COVID-19 national lockdown, a development that is likely to affect most employees’ livelihoods.
Companies that have been classified as non-essential service providers are closed during the ongoing 21-day lockdown period imposed two weeks ago by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
During the course of the lockdown, some companies mostly in the retail and hospitality sector like Simbisa Zimbabwe Brands have since notified their workforce that normal salaries would not be paid this month due to low revenue brought by the unprecedented business break.
Food sector employees have since petitioned Labour Ministry permanent secretary, Simon Masanga, over the matter arguing that some employers, making huge profits for years, were taking advantage of the lockdown to neglect their employees by threatening not to pay salaries during the lockdown.
However, speaking to NewZimbabwe.com, Labour Minister, Paul Mavima said government was not in a position to force employers to pay their workers’ salaries.
“No, we cannot be seen issuing directives over the payment of salaries because these companies could be telling the truth when they claim that they did not collect any revenue due to the lockdown,” Mavima said.
The minister was quick to add that this did not imply the government was unconcerned about the welfare of workers in the private sector.
“What we can assure Zimbabweans is that we will engage in social dialogue through the Tripartite Negotiating Forum.
“Only strategic dialogue and persuasion will save our nation, it has to be a culture and we can’t afford to proceed with dictatorial tendencies as a nation,” he said.