WORKERS in Zimbabwe’s sugar industry are demanding that their salaries be doubled in line with the rising cost of living.
Unions have cited the escalating inflation rate, which rose to over 59 percent during the month of April.
The Zimbabwe Sugar Milling Industry Workers Union (ZISMWU) and the Sugar Production Workers Union (SPWU) have tabled a 100 percent salary increment which would see the lowest paid worker earning about $700 Zimbabwean bond notes.
Currently, the least paid worker in the sugar industry gets about 350 Zimbabwean bond notes, which is equivalent to only US$100. The workers are said to be the lowest paid in the region, where workers are paid between $400 and $480.
Freedom Madungwe, ZISMWU president, said rising inflation was eroding workers’ salaries.
“We last got an increment about two years ago. Considering the inflationary pressures in the country, workers are finding it difficult to survive,” Madungwe said.
“We want a 100 percent salary increment which will see the least paid person getting 700 Zimbabwean bond notes. This is not even enough,” he added.
While the country maintains that it is still using the multiple currency system adopted in 2009 at the demise of the local dollar, most Zimbabweans are using bond notes currently trading at 4 bond notes to the US dollar.
Prices of goods and services have gone up lately as industries claim they were buying the US dollar on the parallel market.
Workers in the sugar sector welcomed moves by unions to call for salary increases.
“We want to live a decent life and be able to send our children to school. A 100 percent salary increment would cushion us from the current economic hardships,” James Mutsamvi, a worker at Triangle Limited, said.
Ester Nyoni, a worker at Hippo Valley Estates, said the salary hikes were necessary since inflation rendered the bond notes worthless.
“These bond notes have lost value. The issue of salary increments is therefore inevitable,” she said.
The sugar industry employs about 18 000 workers in Zimbabwe.
Tongaat Hulett employs most of the workers.
Sydney Mutsambiwa, Tongaat Hulett group chief executive, said he had not received a proposal from the workers.
“I have not seen anything from the workers so I cannot comment, but, remember these collective bargaining issues are very sensitive,” Mutsambiwa said.
In 2017, the workers embarked on a strike which paralysed operations at the company’s two mills in Triangle and Hippo Valley in Chiredzi, southeast Zimbabwe.