ZIMBABWEAN workers celebrated Workers’ Day yesterday amid a gloomy outlook, as working conditions have deteriorated into the new dispensation.
BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
Labour body, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and analysts said the skyrocketing cost of living has dwarfed the remuneration being offered.
ZCTU president, Peter Mutasa said workers feel betrayed that their sorrows still continue even in the new dispensation.
“The majority of workers feel betrayed; they were part of the people that marched on the streets to support the transition and they had specific wishes. Workers were wishing that there will be price stability and a new way of citizen participation, wide consultation and yet it’s a one-sided policy at the expense of the poor and workers are feeling like Zimbabwe is open for oppression,” he said.
Mutasa said the three-tier pricing system and cash shortages have burdened the already struggling worker, who is forced to pay a premium to access cash.
“These exorbitant charges are eating into workers’ earning and that is why we are calling for at least 60% salary increment. If wages do not increase there must be a price reduction,” he said.
John Mufukare, Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe executive director, said his body was advocating for the Zimbabwe is open for business mantra.
“Our duty is advocacy in line with the government mantra that Zimbabwe is open for business. This is what we promote. What we advise government is that let us show that Zimbabwe is open for business on the ground to show that indeed Zimbabwe is open for business,” he said.
Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe economist, Prosper Chitambara corroborated Mutasa’s statement, saying incomes have been eroded by a surge in prices.
“The situation of workers has not changed. The developments in the labour market, with respect to strike actions by doctors and nurses and a looming strike by teachers, bear testimony to this. Real incomes of workers have been seriously emasculated by the resurgence in inflation. Government policy seems to be ambivalent towards the worker. The rise in prices is eroding the purchasing power of money and wages have generally remained sticky,” he said.
Workers lost their voice after a 2015 Supreme Court ruling gave employers the right to terminate contracts on three months’ notice. There was carnage thereafter, with more than 20 000 workers losing their jobs.
Struggling firms have continued shedding jobs to stay afloat, throwing thousands of workers onto the streets.
From January to September 2017, at least 2 830 workers were retrenched according to ZCTU statistics.
Economist, John Robertson said workers have been losing jobs in the past 20 years.
“More jobs must be created, but there is need to support the employers. Potential employees are leaving the country every day. Existing employees are not getting enough wages. At least 100 000 graduates are churned out to the labour market every year, but there are no jobs on offer. That is why there is a lot informalisation,” he said.
Robertson said the focus must be to make sure that the economic environment is conducive for employers to survive.
“The focus must be to make sure that the environment is conducive for employers to survive. The environment is hostile right now with high taxes, levies, charges and seems like everything was designed to make life difficult for the employers. Now you find Zimbabweans all over the world employing people,” he said.
Economist, Clemence Machadu said young people bear the brunt of the adverse effects of unemployment.
“This is despite the fact that the Constitution requires the State to take appropriate measures to create employment and ensure full employment. Right now, it is sad to note that many young people are just idle and have been forced to find solace in drugs, with some being used by politicians to further their interests for a few pieces of silver, while others have been driven into prostitution or violence,” he said.
“Government must take the responsibility of speedily ensuring that we have full employment.”
Machadu said workers in formal and informal sectors were deprived of cushioning social safety nets and unfair labour practices.
“The majority are earning salaries below the family basket and many are working in unsafe work environments. Many workers in the informal sector do not have medical aid or pension programmes. This should be addressed, as we move forward. If workers are the most important resource of the company, then that importance should be reflected in the manner they are treated,” he said, adding the Constitution stipulates that workers have the right to fair and safe labour practices and standards and to be paid fair and reasonable wages.
“Most workers are suffering from mental health issues and nothing much is being done to foster decent jobs despite the fact that Zimbabwe is a signatory of the continent’s Decent Work Agenda.”