WHILE for six months, prices of commodities and services have been relentlessly surging upwards, wages and salaries have virtually remained stagnant as they have since dollarisation in 2009. And it is quite interesting to note how both government and private sector employers have been mum about the issue after a half-hearted attempt at a salary raise via a measly cost of living adjustment.
While it is logical that any significant movement in the cost of goods and services should also translate into some kind of adjustment in the wage bill, this has not been the case in Zimbabwe; a situation we are afraid to say is becoming increasingly untenable.
All things being equal, we should never get to a situation whereby the country’s entire workforce resorts to petitioning the Head of State to press for better wages and working conditions. This merely points to a serious disconnect in the functioning of the whole State.
That it has been ages since the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF), which brings together government, employers and employees, met to sort out these issues, clearly points to the root cause of the problem. The TNF is a critical part of any economy because it helps cultivate a culture of understanding among the key sectors of the economy.
As it stands, the situation is fast degenerating into chaos as both government and private sector employers keep avoiding meeting workers to listen to their grievances over their increasing inability, to not only continue reporting for work, but to afford to also provide for their families.
It seems government and the employers are now largely interested more on their own survival at the expense of the workers. But this kind of attitude is not only unsustainable, but is a serious indictment on any efforts to revive this troubled economy. We have said before, and repeat it again here, that a disgruntled workforce is the last thing this economy needs.
Once the country’s entire workforce decides to down tools, as they already indicated as their last resort, it means that nothing will function and the country will just grind to a halt. And when things reach that stage, anything can happen.
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Government should not let things deteriorate to that because history informs us that once the ruling elite are cornered by crippling workers’ strikes they resort to evoking emergency powers, which only result in aggravating the situation. The country still has a window of opportunity to solve the wage issue through dialogue. We beseech the powers-that-be not to miss this chance to steady the dangerously rocking boat.