LABOUR and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavima has been placed in a tight corner to gazette a minimum wage agreed upon by partners in the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) after the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) this week formed a bipartite deal with the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) as well as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).
The three entities met in Harare this week and formed the alliance to jointly push for mutually beneficial issues at the TNF, where the gazetting of the minimum wage of US$150 is a priority matter.
Last year, the TNF agreed on the minimum wage, but Mavima has been refusing to gazette it so that it becomes legally binding.
The bipartite arrangement which has now been stitched together by the employers and workers will therefore see them piling pressure on Mavima at the TNF.
Kenneth Shamhuyarira, the ZFTU secretary-general, told The NewsHawks that the organisations for workers and employers had unanimously agreed to speak with one voice at the TNF.
“The continuing deepening economic crisis in Zimbabwe on the one hand and the continued disregard for dialogue through the TNF necessitated the bipartite partners — that is the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) and organised labour [ZFTU and ZCTU] — to engage and come up with recommendations on issues of common interest bedevilling the economy,” Shamuyarira said.
“Both employers and employees agreed to table the recommendations to the main TNF for discussion. Once there is consensus on the priority issues at TNF, a joint action plan and implementation matrix will be agreed. This is a sign of our commitment as social partners to dialogue.”
The trade unionist also highlighted that at present workers are not happy with Mavima’s disregard of the TNF agreements and urged him to gazette the minimum wage.
“We implore the government to expedite the operationalisation of the TNF and to be swift in responding to socio-economic crises.
Furthermore we call on expeditious implementation of agreed issues to, including gazetting the agreed US$150 minimum wage,” said Shamuyarira.
“This will eradicate issues of mistrust and confidence-building within the TNF and the nation at large.
“We were expecting that by now the TNF technical team should have met to review the minimum wage in Q1 (first quarter) as previously agreed and map a forward for implementation of the agreed recommendations in Victoria Falls last year.
“Our joint plea to government is to honour the TNF and give it a chance to jointly deal with socio-economic issues as mandated by the TNF Act. Emcoz and organised labour feels that the TNF is not being fully utilised yet it has so much potential.”
He added that in the bipartite agreement, employers and employees agreed that issues which need to be pushed in the TNF include prices, currency and incomes stability.
Last month, the labour side of TNF wrote to Mavima asking him to urgently convene a crisis meeting of the platform, immediately gazette the minimum wage agreed by parties to the forum in September last year and organise a gathering that would bring President Emmerson Mnangagwa to the table.
The letter was delivered to Mavima’s offices at Kaguvi Building on the same day.
The TNF is a constitutionally formed body comprising the government, the business sector and labour representatives. It was formed through the Tripartite Negotiating Forum Act which makes it a serious platform for discussing issues affecting workers.
The ZCTU’s acting secretary-general, Kudakwashe Munengiwa and Shamuyarira co-signed the letter.
Part of the letter reads: “On behalf of Organised Labour, we bring to your attention outstanding issues that have not been resolved after our last TNF meeting where we agreed that every worker must be paid at least US$150 per month.
“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 line’ 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 organise employers say they have no obligation to pay it.”
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 TNF platform seriously and understanding the importance of organised labour as a stakeholder and a partner in the TNF,” reads the letter.