Leonard Ncube Victoria Falls Reporter
WORKERS will not be awarded any salary/wage increases this year because there is very little productivity in the economy, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Prisca Mupfumira, said yesterday.
Echoing sentiments by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor, Dr John Mangudya, who also called for a wage and salary freeze this year in his Monetary Policy statement last week, Minister Mupfumira said the country’s economy could not sustain any salary hikes but instead businesses should lower prices in line with new policy measures adopted by the Government.
Although the salary and wage freeze applies to civil servants and parastatals, the private sector is expected to follow the Government’s lead.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing 41st session of the African Regional Labour Administration Centre Governance Council Meeting in Victoria Falls, Min Mupfumira said government was aware of the challenges faced by industry and an escalating rate of labour disputes, retrenchments and salary cuts affecting the economy.
She, however, said government was in a tight situation as its “cake is small.”
Minister Mupfumira said:
“We’re aware of serious challenges faced by industry and we encourage employers and employees to seek proper channels in line with the culture of dialogue which is the key issue. For now we’re in a tight situation. On salaries, the solution lies in dialogue. Of course we want people to be remunerated but we’re in a tricky situation which is why we want to engage unions”.
She said Government was engaging unions to forge the way forward.
“We’ve reactivated the Joint National Negotiating Council (NJNC) to ensure there’s consensus and a win-win situation in terms of a salary impasse. As we speak the two parties are engaged in consultations but when the cake is small people fight. How do you increase salaries when there’s no productivity?”
Min Mupfumira said government would also ensure it fulfils its promises of creating two million jobs as enshrined in the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset) economic blue-print.
“The accelerated implementation of Zim-Asset and in particular the thrust towards value addition and beneficiation is the major vehicle for creating jobs for our youths and women. The greatest challenge we have relates to underemployment or quality of available jobs and my ministry is pursuing various ways of ensuring that jobs are decent, rewarding and secure,” she said.
Min Mupfumira said government valued dispute resolution centred on dialogue in labour matters.
The minister discouraged employers from rushing to retrench when there were many other options that could save jobs.
“The Ministry promotes a culture of dialogue between employers and employees for win-win solutions. The solution may include arrangements such as payment plans.
“Retrenchment should not be option number one because it has a cost factor. What we should do is focus on issues that bring productivity to industry and grow our economy so we get money to pay workers. With capacity utilisation at 30 percent as presented by EMCOZ, we should focus on working together,” said Minister Mupfumira.
She said parties need to note that conflict is an inherent part of industrial relations.
The Ministry, said Minister Mupfumira, encourages employers and employees to respect and abide by the laws of the country and seek proper channels of finding solutions to the collective problems at hand.
She said the country was pinning its hopes on the implementation of Zim-Asset and the coming in of investors from Russia and China.
The panacea to unemployment and salary increase was the implementation of the economic blueprint whose target is 2018. Unemployment rate now stands at 11 percent, according to Zimstat.
“This is why we refer to Zim-Asset because once implemented, there will be production and salary increases. For now we are negotiating and we firmly believe that next year things will improve through enhanced mining activities and the coming in of investors from Russia and China which will all help realise transformation,” she said.
“Our hope is that by 2018 we would have created the needed jobs in line with Zim-Asset and we hope that investors will help in that regard”.
The ARLAC meeting, which ends tomorrow, is being held under the theme: “Designing labour protection measures to ensure a just share of the fruits of progress to all.”
Min Mupfumira said the theme was apt to Zimbabwe as the country faces a challenge of finding a sustainable social protection system for its vulnerable groups and helping the country in terms of training services and bringing business to hoteliers and tourism.
The minister will officially open the meeting today.
ARMCA is a 19-member organisation with membership drawn from African English speaking countries.