ZIBAWU drags sector employers to court demanding US$ salaries

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By Alois Vinga

WORKERS in the banking sector have approached the High Court seeking an order compelling local financial institutions to pay salaries in foreign currency or interbank rated.

This is despite a recent government policy announcement banning the use of the multi-currency regime that had been in place for a decade and designating the Zimbabwean dollar as sole legal tender for all domestic transactions.

According to court papers, the National Employment Council for the Banking undertaking, Banking Employers Association of Zimbabwe, Send Money Home Private Limited, Agribank and NMB Bank Limited are cited as respondents.

The Zimbabwe Banking and Allied Workers Union (ZIBAWU) contends that the collective bargaining agreements  under which the current salaries were negotiated were approved  at a  time when the local currency was denominated in US$.

“At the time the agreements were entered into, the currency which was in use at that time was the bond note and was officially trading at par with the US. Accordingly all that was mutually agreed upon was on the basis that the US$ was the common denominator of all agreed salaries and wages,” the court papers said.

The union argues that the Statutory Instrument 33 of 2019 which legalised the RTGS$ did not at any time allow the conversion of salary contracts into RTGS$ on a fixed exchange rate of 1:1.

“Through this SI 33 of 2019 an electronic currency was introduced known as the RTGS$. The issuance of the species of currency was said to be inapplicable to funds held in Nostro Accounts and also to foreign loans and obligations originally denominated in any foreign currency,” said ZIBAWU in the papers.

The union holds that by the same regulations, any variance from the opening parity rate, from the effective date shall be determined from time to time by the rate at which authorised dealers shall gazette at the interbank market.

ZIBAWU is makes it clear that the application is not meant to challenge SI 33 of 2019 but just to persuade employers and employees in the sector to seek the court’s intervention in interpreting the instrument’s effect on employment contracts.

“Collective bargaining agreements are a by-product of the Labour Act which is the principle legislation governing all labour related matters. The Act prevails or takes precedence over any enactment, subsidiary legislations regulations and proclamations inconsistent with it. None of these can take away rights delegated to an employee in terms of the Act,” the workers body argues.