Jump to main content
IndustriALL logotype

Zimbabwe energy workers in stayaway over poverty wages

24 February, 2022Zimbabwean energy workers have written to their employer, the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA), stating that they are no longer able to report for work because of poverty wages.

ZEWU says some workers earn less than US $100 per month.

“We are writing to notify you that our members no longer have the capacity to report for duty as expected. It is no secret that their incapacitation has been caused by the unbearable economic conditions they are faced with,”

wrote Martin Chikuni, the general secretary of the Zimbabwe Energy Worker Union (ZEWU), which is affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union.

The union says the “no collective industry mandate” excuse by the employer is a ruse to avoid increasing wages and is creating “disharmony” and doubt over whether the employer is committed to negotiations. Workers are becoming increasingly sceptical about the usefulness of attending bargaining meetings where no decisions are made to pay living wages.

In the letter dated 14 February, ZEWU states that workers are faced with price hikes of basic commodities, rentals, fuel, and school fees. Further, with the loss of confidence in the local currency, most providers of goods and services are asking for payment in US dollars which are mainly bought at higher rates on the parallel market. The exchange rate to the US dollar is 1:120 Zimbabwe dollars (ZWL) on the official market, and 1: 235 on the parallel market. But US dollars are more widely available in the streets than the banks.

The union says the wages are not keeping up with hyperinflation, which is over 60 per cent according to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency. Further, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe has reported that a family of six required at least ZWL $73,000 (US $310) to meet the cost of living.

However, the reply to the union from ZESA, the country’s power utility, was an offer of a 30 per cent wage increase and increments in Covid-19 and transport allowances which the union has described as paltry. The union says the collective action will continue until their demands for living wages are met.

“We support ZEWU in its campaign for living wages and hope that the employer will engage in serious and meaningful wage negotiations and stop the delaying tactics when workers and their families are starving. Workers are suffering under the precarious working conditions of low wages that are currently prevailing in Zimbabwe,”

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

World Bank reports state that over 7.9 million Zimbabweans are extremely poor – meaning that at least one person is living on less than US $30 per month. The country’s population is estimated to be over 15 million. Poverty has been worsened by the price hikes of food and other basics while the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the economic crisis.

Photo: A file image of a Zimbabwean energy worker.