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‘Hungry’ GMB workers demand US$700 backdated salary; arbitrator awards half of amount sought

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By James Muonwa


WORKERS at Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and its subsidiary, Silo Foods Industries (SFI), who were demanding a hefty minimum pay rise of US$700 backdated to July last year, have been award half the amount.

A Voluntary Arbitration Tribunal presided over by renowned labour lawyer, Caleb Mucheche on March 16, 2023 in Harare, ordered the parastatal and its subsidiary company to pay a wage increment of US$350 for the period July to December 2022.

The new pay structure is payable at the interbank RTGS rate equivalent. Before the arbitration award, the lowest paid employee was earning ZW$19 000 which is equivalent to less than US$19 on the parallel market.

GMB Workers’ Union president, David Chigogo confirmed the latest development.

“While we were demanding US$700 at least we are excited to have been awarded the pay increment of US$350. Half a loaf is better than nothing. We accept the arbitral award,” said Chigogo.

According to the arbitral award seen by NewZimbabwe.com, prolonged pay negotiations had disadvantaged the generality of the workers.

“In the final analysis, therefore, l am of the considered view that it is just and equitable that claimant be awarded a wage increment of US$350 for the period July to December 2022 payable at the interbank RTGS rate equivalent bearing in mind that the purchasing power of that money has been eroded by inflation due to delays in finalisation of issues caused by haggling between the parties and prolonged fruitless negotiations.

“The respondent be and hereby ordered to award the claimant employees a minimum wage increment of US$350, for period July to December 2022,” said Mucheche.

In his ruling, the arbitrator said GMB workers did not deserve to be condemned to poverty while top managers awarded themselves hefty salaries, allowances and top of the range vehicles.

Lawyers representing GMB did not rebut accusations that executives were pampering themselves with huge salaries and perks, the arbitrator highlighted.

“The respondent did not meaningfully challenge the claimant’s argument that SFI does sales at its shops and generates profits and also that top management has been oiled or greased with top-of-the-range cars and other benefits whilst lower level employees are left to wallow and swim in poverty,” noted Mucheche.

GMB, which was represented at the arbitration sitting by lawyers from Kantor &Immerman, is yet to comply with the arbitral award.

The matter was referred to the arbitrator by the National Employment Council (NEC) in January this year following a wage negotiation deadlock between employer and trade union parties after a series of meetings on July 20, August 24 and September 30 last year.

As a result, workers’ union filed a statement of claim on January 13, 2023 while GMB filed its defence on February 2. This was followed by oral hearings which failed to yield positive results.