GOVERMENT could face an avalanche of lawsuits after it unilaterally slashed salaries and allowances of parastatal bosses to a mere $6 000 per month, labour law experts warned yesterday.
BY MOSES MATENGA
According to experts, the move could also trigger massive brain-drain as thousands of professionals would likely look for greener pastures elsewhere.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa on Tuesday announced a cut in salaries of chief executive officers of parastatals and local authority bosses to a maximum of $6 000 per month pending the finalisation of an appropriate remuneration structure.
Labour law expert Rodgers Matsikidze said it was illegal for government to impose the $6 000 per month on parastatal bosses as that had legal implications.
“What has just happened is a Cabinet directive and the next thing is boards should engage the employees and try to negotiate a revised contract. Either they agree or say pay us until end of contract. I didn’t read it to say that’s the salary to be given. It’s either there is mutual settlement or an employee is bought out of contract and those are options that are there.”
Matsikidze said the government as a shareholder cannot impose a position on the salary issue.
“It’s (an) unfair labour practice,” Matsikidze said. “Legal processes should follow and government is not above the law.”
But Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary-general Japhet Moyo said the cut was long overdue and the money taken from the huge salaries must pay ordinary workers who were struggling to make ends meet.
Some of the money, he said, could be used to provide service delivery. He said the government could face legal action for unilaterally slashing the salaries of parastatal bosses.
“That will be a big challenge since these people had contracts. If it was a collective bargaining agreement that went through due processes and if things were done properly, it would have been difficult and of course one could sue,” Moyo said.
He, however, said it would be difficult for most of the affected bosses to seek greener pastures outside the country as their demands would be too high.
“Who needs people earning $20 000? They can’t pay that in South Africa,” Moyo said. “We know government has made political decisions before and this is a political decision that no court can challenge.”
Chinamasa told journalists after a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that government was prepared for any legal action.
“If anyone decides to sue we will take them up and that’s the least of my worry,” Chinamasa warned. Tax expert, Tendai Mav hima said that it was a misconception that the parastatal bosses were evading tax by giving themselves hefty allowances.
He said all allowances for non-civil servants were taxable.
Mavhima, however, said if government unearthed tax evasions, action could be taken.
“One can be audited and made to pay tax for six years up to now. There is a provision in the Tax Act and that period can open indefinitely,” he said.
Ordinary Zimbabweans, however, lauded the salary cuts describing the move as long overdue.
A student rights activist Pride Mkono said: “It was a welcome move which was long overdue. They must have those assets acquired through these illicit activities seized and forfeited to the State as a mechanism of recovery and then they must all just be fired.” Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest) also said most residents had welcomed the salary and allowance cuts.
“What remains now is for the government and other interested stakeholders to put mechanisms in place that will ensure that this directive will be implemented in all public institutions for the benefit of the people,” Chitrest said.
A Harare resident George Mungoni said: “It was long overdue but they should make sure it’s properly implemented.”
Meanwhile, Chinamasa defended the more than $3 000 salaries earned by ministers saying it was enough and justified for them as they worked hard.
He said President Robert Mugabe was getting slightly more than $5 000 including benefits.
“Who would begrudge me with the $3 000 that I get given the work that I do?” Chinamasa said.