via Zimbabwe: Strike imminent, warns labour union | Southern Africa 17 February 2015 by Janet Shoko
Zimbabwe should brace itself for a series of protests by disgruntled workers following Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s (RBZ) recommendation for a blanket wage freeze, the largest labour body has declared.
Central bank boss, John Mangudya seemed to have provoked workers last week when he insinuated that the ailing economy cannot sustain any wage increase in both the private and public sectors.
“Given the lack of competitiveness and its negative effects on the economy, we do not see any room for wage and salary increase within the national economy,” Mangudya said in his monetary policy statement.
Critics view Mangudya’s proposal as being “anti-worker” coming on the back of revelations that most firms are battling to pay workers on time and let alone full salaries every month.
Most firms have sought permission from the Retrenchment Board to sack workers.
On Tuesday, the southern African country’s biggest and influential labour body, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) said it would mobilise members for protests.
“They made reckless statements without looking at the situation holistically and due to that employers have found a loophole and a finger to hide behind and are therefore not paying salaries and are averse to coming to the negotiating table to discuss conditions of service for employees,” said the labour movement.
“The leadership of the ZCTU, having noted the bad and unethical stance set by the mentioned authorities, would like to inform all affiliates that they should ready themselves for demonstrations concerning these utterances by authorities mentioned above.”
The labour movement is now working on dates for the protests.
Zimbabwe businesses have been struggling to remain viable in a repressed economic environment, forcing most to either downsize or close.
The central bank’s wage freeze call comes as the government is in the process of amending the country’s labour laws, making it easier for employers to retrench employees when facing viability problems.
In 2014, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions said 4 172 people lost their jobs between January and September, but reports indicate that more could have been laid off had employers not been deterred by labour laws that make retrenchment very expensive and onerous.