Auxilia Katongomara Chronicle Reporter
WORKER unions are opposed to the idea of a new levy to carter for ill and pregnant employees.
They said the new levy announced by the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) would worsen the plight of the already overburdened worker.
NSSA general manager James Matiza announced on Tuesday that the government would soon roll out two schemes, the national health Insurance scheme and the maternity scheme.
Under the maternity scheme, workers will contribute towards a centralised fund to help ease the burden on employers who at present pay women on maternity leave.
Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions secretary for economic affairs, Jacob Rice, said the proposed schemes would worsen the burden on the worker.
“At face value it might look like it’s a noble idea but the new tax will overburden the already over-taxed Zimbabwean worker. It also came as a surprise to us because we only saw it in the Press,” said Rice.
He said they would soon meet as an organisation to map the way forward.
Rice said what ever position his organisation would come up with, it would protect the worker.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) acting secretary-general, Gideon Shoko, said they were dismayed by the NSSA revelations because the social authority did not consult them over the matter.
“We’re very disappointed because as the affected people we were not consulted. We’re part of the stakeholders and must participate in decision making in such issues,” said Shoko.
He said they had already written a letter to NSSA demanding to know why they were excluded in the formulation process of the proposed new levy.
“We write with concern following a Press release on February 18, 2015 that two schemes were on the cards namely the National Health Insurance and Maternity Schemes. While labour is not against the move to introduce the two schemes, it’s a question of exclusion of the other social partners who are a critical component, where social dialogue is encouraged,” read the ZCTU letter dated February 18.
Shoko said the worker unions were not ready to accept the introduction of the two schemes without dialogue between the two parties.
“Labour is not in a position to accept the introduction of the two schemes without its effective participation just like what happened when the National Pension Scheme was introduced. It was not a top down approach instead, it was through dialogue that we all agreed to it,” read the letter.
Workers in Bulawayo said the idea is against the pro-poor budget.
Leticia Gopo, an employee of the National Railways of Zimbabwe, said she did not understand the logic of contributing towards the maternity scheme.
“Maternity levy is unlike HIV because with HIV you will be helping someone but pregnancy is mainly a question of choice. Why should we contribute towards your decision to have your own kids?
“Even though it’s meant to benefit us women, it’s not fair because some of us have told ourselves that we have enough children. So why contribute money towards something that I will not benefit from?” said Gopo.
Another worker, Bekezela Sibanda, described the proposed levy as unsustainable.
He said his $200 a month salary could not withstand more taxes.
Some workers said it was unfair to introduce this tax at a time when government announced that there would be no salary increments.
The NSSA announcement on the new levies comes at a time when Finance and Economic Development Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, told Parliament on Tuesday that his ministry would not introduce new levies soon, adding that taxpayers were over-strained by other levies.
Speaking on the issue of introducing a Cancer levy to subsidise cancer treatment, Minister Chinamasa said the country should look at ways of growing the economy and generating more revenue.
Matiza told journalists on the sidelines of the 41st session of the African Regional Labour Administration Centre (ARLAC) in Victoria Falls that the two schemes would be rolled out soon.
He said the crafting of the National Health Insurance Scheme was at an advanced stage and NSSA was waiting for a government directive to implement it.