By Robert Tapfumaneyi
EMPLOYERS in the food sector have approached the High Court seeking an order to stop the Arbitration Award issued in favour of workers arguing the outcome, if implemented, could drive a lot of players in the sector out of business.
The Detergents, Edible Oils and Fats Employers Association said the arbitral award dated 7 October goes against the Public Policy of Zimbabwe.
They want the minimum wage for the sector to be set at a basic salary of US$69.50, housing at US$24.50 and transport allowances at US$17.50.
The Arbitrator had ruled that the lowest paid worker must be paid a basic monthly salary of US$140 or RTGS at the prevailing bank rate.
The workers were also supposed to be paid a monthly housing allowance of US$25 and transport allowance at US$20.
However, the association has described the court approach as ‘retrogressive and insincere’.
The lowest paid worker is currently taking home a mere RTGS 4000 per month.
The amount is less than US$50 calculated using the official exchange rate.
The Detergents, Edible Oils and Fats workers union representative said the sector’s employers are being insensitive to their human resources.
“After we failed to agree during our negotiation, we both opted for voluntary arbitration and it came out in favour of the workers,” Runesu Dzimiri secretary general Federation of Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAWU) representative said in an interview with NewZimbabwe.com.
“Instead of complying, the employer approached the High Court which came as a shock to the workers, because their reasons are just a delaying tactic and justified.
“The court process is obviously going to affect the 2021 first quarter negotiations.”
“Just look at the amount the lowest paid worker is taking home and yet management is not keen to increase their salaries, yet they sell most of their products in foreign currency.”
Filing their court application, the employer is arguing that the arbitrator should have used ZUPCO bus fares when coming up with the transport allowances.
They are also arguing that if the award is implemented, many businesses in the industry will not be able to pay these wages and would have to close.
“It is contrary to the Public Policy of Zimbabwe to make an unstainable award which might lead to the demise of a business or industry,” reads the court papers.