Banks use RBZ excuse to dismiss demands for US dollar salary payments

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By Alois Vinga

BANK Employers Association of Zimbabwe (BEAZ) has allegedly claimed that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) does not allow the payment of US$-denominated salaries as a way to counter mounting pressures from the sector’s workers.

BEAZ and the Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union (ZIBAWU) are currently locked up in wage increment negotiations which have seen the workers’ side demanding US dollar payments.

The 2023 RBZ Monetary Policy Statement recently reported that in the period ending December 31 2022, all banking institutions reported aggregate profits of ZW$503,13 billion signifying a 749% increase from ZW$59,3 billion reported in the corresponding period in 2021.

The growth in the banking sector income largely emanated from non-interest income, which constituted 68 % of total income up from 54 % reported in the corresponding period in 2021.

The workers’ side also argues that the proportion of US$ loans and bank deposits has risen significantly, placing the employers in a comfortable position to own up

Speaking about ongoing negotiations, ZIBAWU secretary general, Peter Mutasa alleged that the employers are now dragging their feet because of the central bank.

“Lately, they (BEAZ) started reneging on the payment of full US$ salaries arguing that the RBZ does not allow such practices. But we are asking how the central bank can be a stumbling block in a labour dispute

“Even when we contacted the RBZ officials over the matter, they simply distanced themselves from the claims,” he said.

Contacted for comment and quizzed on how the central bank was being involved in the matter, BEAZ president, Simba Mukombera neither picked up the numerous phone calls made nor responded to WhatsApp messages despite confirmation that he read the messages.

A BEAZ position paper seen by the publication however argues that annual headline and month-on-month inflation continued to slow down and closed the year at 243.80% and 2.4%, respectively coupled with general stability of prices in the economy, the blended inflation profile and annual inflation remained relatively stable at 105.5% dismissing the need for full US$ salaries.

Employers also noted that banks have continued to extend various ex gratia interventions to their staff in an effort to cushion them from the supervening effects of the economy.

“The negotiating cycle shall be for the year 2023, however, the period to be covered will be guided by the prevailing environment.

“We propose to convert part of the agreed ZWL minimums to United Stated Dollars that will be paid in ZW$ at the prevailing Willing Buyer Willing Seller Rate at the point of payment,” added BEAZ.