FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube, who is currently seized with political campaigns for the Cowdray Park parliamentary seat, has left workers seething with anger after he snubbed the crucial latest round of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (NTF).
Labour representatives had travelled from across the country to the venue in Harare on Monday, only to be rewarded with Ncube’s no-show.
The TNF is a constitutionally mandated body bringing together the government, the business sector and labour representatives.
It was constituted in terms of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum Act, making it a serious platform for discussing and resolving issues affecting workers.
Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) secretary-general Kennias Shamuyarira told The NewsHawks that it was dissapointing that Ncube had failed to pitch up at the TNF meeting on Monday, yet he had been given sufficient notice ahead of the gathering.
The meeting, due to Ncube’s snub, was subsequently abandoned as it could not take off without the Finance minister’s presence.
“It’s very unfortunate that some government ministers do not take TNF more seriously and important in the discourse of our economic development mantra,” he said.
The trade unionist said Ncube was expected to address key econmic issues affecting workers.
“The Finance minister as the government team leader in the TNF was supposed to come and agree to the US dollar salaries for a period of 12 months starting this end of July.
“Again, we were supposed to have discussions and reach an agreed radical approach of addressing the fundamentals that will seek to stabilise the hyperinflation and mitigate towards stabilisation of the whole economy with inputs from all the TNF partners,” he said.
The explanation given to the TNF labour party by government officials for Ncube’s failure to attend the meeting was that he had gone out of town for other engagements.
Shamuyarira revealed that workers are now planning to escalate the issue of Ncube’s TNF snub to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“As a way forward, we will be knocking on the doors of State House demanding audience with H.E. and his Deputy, seeking his ultimate authority to whip the minister in order to have TNF made workable with results-based solutions with a win-win solution for the tripartite alliance partners,” he said.
Before the current fallout with Ncube, in February this year the TNF clashed with Labour minister Paul Mavima and wrote him an emotional letter.
The workers were demanding the gazetting of a US$150 minimum wage.
“We are particularly unhappy that you have literary refused to gazette the agreed amount as a minimum wage and you prefer to call it a ‘guideline’ despite the fact that at the Victoria Falls meeting we all agreed to the gazetting of the US$150 minimum wage. Your failure to do so has made it difficult to enforce the US$150 as organised employers say they have no obligation to pay it,” wrote the workers.
The workers added that they had agreed that the amount would be reviewed upwards in the first quarter of this year.
“Surprisingly, we are already in the first quarter of the year and no meeting has been called to review this amount. As partners, we feel you are not taking the TNF platform seriously and understanding the importance of organised labour as a stakeholder and a partner in the TNF,” reads the letter.
The workers urged the minister to desist from angering workers and asked him to facilitate a meeting with Mnangagwa.
“Comrade minister, workers out there are highly agitated and they might be forced to take the law into their own hands as the cost of living continues to spiral,” the workers said.
In September last year, Mnangagwa was forced to jolt into action 13 ministers who sit on the TNF to urgently attend a meeting of the platform to discuss solutions to worsening economic hardships buffeting the country’s general workers.
The employees had threatened to report Zimbabwe to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) over the country’s disregard of labour rights.
Zimbabwe has a legal obligation to respect social dialogue and make it function in terms of ILO convention 144 which the country has ratified. Failure to uphold international conventions leaves the country liable to ILO sanctions.