THE outcry over the salaries paid by Stanbic Bank to its employees is yet another indicator of the conundrum faced by workers across the spectrum of the Zimbabwean economy as their wages lag far behind the price of goods and services.
The Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union (Zibawu) approached the financial institution’s South African headquartered parent, Standard Bank Group, raising a stink over reported “wage theft” and “slave wages” at the Harare operation.
In a letter to Standard Bank chief executive Simphiwe Tshabalala dated November 24, Zibawu acting general-secretary Shepherd Ngandu said the Stanbic management had failed to consider the deteriorating crisis and had failed to respond to the workers’ plight.
“Workers in your Zimbabwe subsidiary are thus seriously impoverished and require your urgent intervention to address their salaries and benefits,” Ngandu said in the letter to Tshabalala titled Deplorable and Unmitigated Working Conditions for Stanbic Zimbabwe Staff.
The parlous state of affairs at Stanbic Bank is being replicated across the country in both the private and public sectors as employers fail to pay a living wage to their workers.
The premature decision by the government to introduce the Zimbabwe dollar as the sole legal tender in June last year decimated incomes and pensions as the local unit massively lost value and has impoverished workers paid in the local currency.
Although government has since backed down on that disastrous position by bringing back the United States dollar as a currency of trade with prices generally stabilising due to the introduction of the foreign currency auction market, this has been too little too late for the majority of workers who have never recovered from that rushed decision by the Zanu PF regime.
The amount of money an average household of five requires to purchase both food and non-food items, commonly referred to as the total consumption poverty line (TCPL) has risen to nearly $18 000, according to national statistical body, ZimStat. This is a figure beyond the reach of most workers who are paid in the local currency.
To compound the problem, these wages have been depleted by medical and funeral policy monthly payments which has forced workers to either downgrade their policies or go without these essential provisions.
The need for employers, in both the public and private sectors, to pay decent wages cannot be overemphasised.
Poor salaries will result in retailers recording reduced volumes as a consequence of shrinking disposable incomes which will result in less money going into the government’s coffers.
This illustrates the domino effect of low incomes on the health of an economy already in the doldrums.
Unless and until the issue of wages is resolved, government’s efforts to resuscitate the economy will be as futile as winking in the dark.