ZIMBABWEAN nationals working as caregivers in the United Kingdom (UK) are at crossroads with agencies fleecing desperate workers of their salaries in the name of bond fees.
The Independent is informed that a number of agencies owned and run by Zimbabweans in the UK are working in cahoots with those owned by UK nationals to bond fellow countrymen after facilitating their moves to the European country.
These agencies pay for accommodation, flights, and visas for prospective job seekers before proceeding to deduct as much as 50% of the workers’ gross salaries.
Zimbabweans working as caregivers in the UK are getting an average of £14 (US$16,20) per hour but half is often deducted by the employment agencies leaving some workers with a paltry £7 (US$8,10) per hour. After tax deduction, some are left with around £4 (US$4, 63), to cover their food, transport and other related expenses.
A two-bedroomed flat in Margate, a seaside town on the north coast of Kent in south-east England where a number of Zimbabweans working as caregivers are residing, costs £920 (US$1 066,13) a month which is beyond what they are getting.
“This is not what I envisioned. The agency dictates everything. It looks like we are in the modern slave trade era. These people determine how we work and how much we get leaving us powerless yet we are the ones who labour daily. They took advantage of my desperation and it is only now that I am realising I could have done due diligence before engaging them,” said a distraught Alice Mangena who moved to the UK at the beginning of the year.
Mangena is a holder of a Psychology degree but like other graduates in Zimbabwe, employment is scarce. Therefore she engaged an agency in a desperate bid to flee from the marauding poverty that was stalking her.
Unfortunately, the dream for a better life continues to be a pipe dream despite travelling over 10 000km in search of it.
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“I knew about the bonding and that I was supposed to pay a percentage of my earnings to them for travel and associated expenses but I never suspected it would be 50% of my earnings,” Simbarashe Takawira who has been in the UK since May this year added.
What is compounding the dire situation for Zimbabwean caregivers working under private entities is that the British government’s regulation of these agencies is not effective hence they have nowhere to approach for recourse.
The British healthcare system is struggling to cover over 40 000 nursing positions following the deaths of professionals at the peak of the Covid-19 period.
In Zimbabwe, health professionals are leaving the nation en masse for the UK and other European states in search of greener pastures as the struggle for survival in the southern African country is worsening daily.
This has seen a number of public hospitals operating with skeletal staff in a development that has paralysed the country’s health delivery system.