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Unions reject poverty minimum wages in Zimbabwe

15 June, 2022IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Zimbabwe that organize in the chemicals and plastics, energy, garment and textile, metals and engineering, mining, and other manufacturing sectors, are rejecting a minimum wage of ZWL $25,000 (US$77) that was announced by the ministry of public service, labour, and social welfare which they say is a poverty wage.

The money can only buy two dozen loaves of bread. The unions say to avoid living in poverty, the workers must be paid over ZWL $130,000 or US$400, and that the government must engage trade unions through social dialogue platforms before making the wage announcements.

The wage crisis in the country is leading unions to negotiate for shorter collective bargaining agreements with clauses stating that the wages must be adjusted to the inflation rate. Unions are also requesting employers to pay workers in the more stable US dollar.
Some grocery stores have stopped selling goods in the local currency, which is fast losing value. This puts workers into in a dilemma as they are forced to buy the US dollars on the streets where the rate is higher. According to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, year-on-year inflation in May was 131.7 per cent while the current exchange rate to the US dollar is ZWL$325.56.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, to which some IndustriALL affiliates are members, says the country’s workers are the working poor as they earn below the poverty line. With high unemployment, estimated to be 47 per cent by Zimbabwe National Statistic Agency using the expanded rate, the workers are likely to be the breadwinners in their households. with most workers employed under precarious conditions in the informal sector, unions dispute the official unemployment rate as low.
Joseph Tanyanyiwa, the chairperson of the IndustriALL National Council for Zimbabwe says:

“It is our strong view that the gazette minimum wage is too paltry and in no way related to the prevailing macro-economic fundamentals in Zimbabwe. The reality on the ground is that the prices of basic commodities are rising while the ZWL continues to depreciate against the Unites States Dollar. It is with this gloomy scenario that we wonder what criterion the minister used to set such a low minimum wage. A minimum wage of ZWL$25 000 is unreasonable, inadequate and a slap in the face of the workers.”

“For years, Zimbabwean workers have been losing savings, pensions, and the value of their wages to hyperinflation and the unresolved economic crisis. When we thought the crisis was over, we are shocked to see that hyperinflation is again eroding workers’ wages. We call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to implement sustainable economic policies that will protect the value of the workers’ wages, improve living conditions, and stop the precarious working conditions prevailing in the country,”

says Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa.