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Edible oil sector employers challenge salaries

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THE Detergents, Edible Oils and Fats Employers’ Association (DEOFEA) has approached the High Court seeking an order to suspend an arbitration order which effected a minimum monthly basic wage of US$140 alongside other allowances.

DEOFEA argues that the increment violated Zimbabwe’s public policy.

This follows the decision by the arbitrator, Percy Shawatu, directing the sector’s employers to pay a minimum basic wage of US$140 per month payable at the prevailing official exchange rate.

A housing allowance of US$25 payable in hard currency and a monthly transport allowance of US$20 at the prevailing auction rate was also directed.

The increments, which were due to be effected around the beginning of the year, were arrived  at after the arbitrator considered the obtaining economic hardships as well as the fact that most products being manufactured in the sector are being sold at prices rated against the US dollar.

But the sector’s employers are challenging the arbitration order.

“The arbitrator based his quantification of the housing allowance and the transport allowance on illegalities. He considered that most landlords were charging rentals in foreign currency, which was unlawful, and he quantified the transport allowance on the basis that employees use illegal private transport instead of ZUPCO buses which are the only lawful means of transport,” argued the employers’ group.

DEOFOU told the court that claims by employees that personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitiser being produced by sector players were being sold in US dollars were untrue.
They blamed the arbitrator for ignoring the  submission that not every employer in the sector is manufacturing sanitiser and PPEs and that very few employers were charging in US dollars for their products.

The association said in the few instances where companies charge in US dollars, such business constituted less than 10% of the total sales and such foreign currency is not even enough to restock the imported raw materials.

“The arbitration award constitutes a palpable inequity against the sector’s employers and implementing it would cripple the industry and threaten its sustainability, leading to job losses and lost livelihoods and that it is contrary to the public policy of Zimbabwe,” the employers’ group said.

DEOFOU is proposing a minimum wage of US$69.50, housing allowance US$24.50 and transport allowance US$17.50.

However, the sector’s employees, who are represented by the Detergents, Edible Oils and Fats Workers’ Union, are opposing the court challenge, arguing that the application is based on general disgruntlement with the arbitration award as there is no proof to dismiss the award.

“There is nothing submitted showing that the increment is outrageously illogical or immoral in the reasoning or conclusions reached by the arbitrator to warrant a different conclusion. No case has been proved for setting aside the arbitral award,” the employees added. —STAFF WRITER.

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