A TRIPARTITE Negotiating Forum (TNF) meeting held in Bulawayo early this week to discuss a minimum wage for struggling workers ended in deadlock after Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavima (pictured) reneged on agreements that had been made earlier in Harare and adopted by cabinet.
In September, President Emmerson 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 of the country’s general workers.
This was after the body petitioned him and threatened to seek the intervention of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). TNF is a constitutionally formed body that comprises the government, business sector and organised labour.
It was formed by an Act of Parliament — the Tripartite Negotiating Forum Act — which makes it a constitutional platform of discussing issues affecting workers. The TNF held the Harare meeting on 23 September 2022 on the 11th floor of the National Social Security Authority boardroom.
It was attended by minister of State for Presidential Affairs in charge of Implementation and Monitoring, Joram Gumbo, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leader Florence Taruvinga, Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) president Demos Mabuya.
On the issue of the erosion of wages and salaries, the draft proposal which was later adopted by cabinet said that the least paid worker in Zimbabwe is supposed to earn US$150.
Part of the draft document read: “Organised labour highlighted that it was maintaining its position of demanding the payment of wages and salaries in US$ with the minimum wage being pegged at US$238. This was in their view aimed at cushioning the majority of workers who were being subjected to abject poverty since most goods and services were being charged in US$.
“Following extensive discussions on the matter, social partners recommended that; A guideline be established across all sectors pegging the minimum wage at US$150.00 payable either in US$ or ZWL$ at the prevailing inter-bank rate.
“. . . Government should consider a review of payable taxes with a view to increase disposable incomes for employees. The proposed guideline for the minimum wage will be subject to review at the Main TNF meeting in the first quarter of 2023”.
However, during the Bulawayo meeting held on Monday this week to follow up on these agreements, Mavima backtracked and said the US$150 minimum wage was not mandatory — angering leaders of labour unions, resulting in a deadlock.
A meeting of the TNF principals which had been set for Wednesday to unlock the deadlock again did not take place as Mavima failed to attend.
Hundush Nhundu, who represented the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions as acting president at the Monday meeting, told The NewsHawks that workers are not happy with the developments.
“The minister failed to come back to Bulawayo on Wednesday for the meeting of TNF principals and we are not happy. That is egg on our face because of the confusion in the industry regarding the national minimum wage. The agreed way forward is that we must have that meeting urgently, maybe next week,” Nhundu said.
“To us the issue of a living wage is what is needed for the workers. Together with the ZCTU’s secretary-general Japhet Moyo, we have reached out to the Labour ministry officials to help us unlock the deadlock.”
Nhundu said during the Monday meeting, workers’ representatives asked Mavima to gazette a statutory instrument to give effect to the national minimum wage agreed on 23 September.
“The minister shocked us when he said the US$150 minimum wage was not going to be gazetted because it was not mandatory. That triggered the deadlock and it was agreed that the matter be escalated to principals of the TNF, but on Wednesday the minister did not pitch up for that. So that has now caused confusion in the industry at the moment,” he said.
Nhundu said workers are suffering as employers are not bound by anything to a specific minimum wage which is reasonable.
“The current existing minimum wage agreed upon years back is ZW$2 574. That is what it is at law. So, it can be seen that this money has been eroded and it’s not worth more than US$5 now. So that is why we are pushing for another figure to be gazetted,” he said.