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Mnangagwa jolts Zimbabwe ministers into compromise agreement

by Staff reporter
16 Oct 2022 at 19:30hrs | Views
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa was recently forced to compel 13 ministers who sit in the Tripartite Negotiating (TNF) Forum to urgently attend meetings to discuss solutions to worsening economic hardships after workers and employers threatened to seek the intervention of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The TNF is a constitutionally mandated body bringing together representatives of the government, business sector and organised labour. It is constituted through the Tripartite Negotiating Forum Act, making it a serious platform for discussing matters pertaining to the social contract.

Since 2017, the labour side of the body led by a technical committee fronted by Kenias Shamuyarira, leader of the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions, has been trying to convene meetings with government and business represantatives to discuss lasting solutions to the livelihoods crisis caused by inflation.

However, the cabinet ministries from the economic and labour clusters such as the Finance ministry as well as the Labour and Social Welfare ministry have been shunning crucial meetings.

Miffed by the continued snub of the ministries, the TNF members of the technical committee who included Shamuyarira, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Florence Taruvinga, Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Service Trade Unions leader Cecilia Alexander and president of the Employers' Confederation of Zimbabwe Desmond Mbauya wrote a petition to Mnangagwa complaining about the ministers' unbecoming conduct.

Part of the petition in the possession of The NewsHawks reads: "We, the undersigned hereby petition Your Esteemed office to rein in the ministers from the 13 key ministries to take serious, the social dialogue platform and its mandate to address the issues affecting our economy and our environment."

Zimbabwe has a legal obligation to respect social dialogue and make it function in terms of ILO convention 144 which the country has ratified.

Failure to uphold international conventions leaves the country liable to ILO sanctions.

The TNF petition to Mnangagwa detailed the complaint and took aim at Finance minister Mthuli Ncube.

"We have had more than four main TNF meetings where we were to critically look at the issues relating to the socio-economic challenges and erosion of wages in our country yet the 13 ministries are only sending technical persons, particularly the Ministry of Finance which has not even been represented despite being the lead ministry representing government," the petition reads.

"As a result, the four meetings have been postponed because of lack of key players including the latest 24 August 2022 meeting. Your Excellency, this is very disappointing and gives the impression that as workers and employers, we are not important in addressing key issues in our country."

Investigations revealed that after receiving the petition, Mnangagwa immediately ordered a TNF meeting to be held during his absence when he was attending the 77th United Nations General Assembly summit in New York.

The TNF meeting was held on 23 September 2022 on the 11th floor of the National Social Security Authority boardroom. It was chaired by Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavhima while the government team was led by the minister of state for Presidential Affairs in charge of Implementation and Monitoring, Joram Gumbo.

The ZCTU's Taruvinga and Emcoz leader Demos Mabuya represented labour and the business sector respectively.

On the issue of erosion of wages and salaries, the draft proposal, which now awaits tabling before cabinet, says that the labour side insisted that the least-paid workers like domestic employees must earn US$238, but the final recommendation agreed upon by all the three sectors was that the figure be put at US$150.

Part of the draft document obtained by The NewsHawks reads:

"Organised labour highlighted that it was maintaining its position of demanding the payment of wages and salaries in US$ with the minimum wage being pegged at US$238. This was in their view aimed at cushioning the majority of workers who were being subjected to abject poverty since most goods and services were being charged in US$," the document reads.

"Following extensive discussions on the matter, social partners recommended that: A guideline be established across all sectors pegging the minimum wage at US$150.00 payable either in US$ or ZWL$ at the prevailing inter-bank rate...

"Government should consider a review of payable taxes with a view to increase disposable incomes for employees. The proposed guideline for the minimum wage will be subject to review at the Main TNF meeting in the first quarter of 2023".

Shamuyarira confirmed the meeting.

If adopted, the draft cabinet document will see salaries of civil servants also increase, based on the improved scale of incomes of the least-paid workers in society.

Currently, the gazetted wage of least-paid worker is less than US$30 in real terms on the parallel market rate.

"We now await cabinet to give a nod to the recommendations but it's just academic because resolutions of TNF are binding. What was more positive about that meeting is that there was an agreement to appoint a substantive chief executive officer (CEO) of the TNF to make the body more independent instead of it falling under the minister of Labour who is the TNF chairperson," said Shamuyarira.

"That CEO has already been identified and is being vetted by the security agents before his appointment can be made.

"In our petition to His Excellency, we made it clear that we would be left with no option but to approach the ILO if the ministers continued to snub our meetings. We are happy that the President immediately took action."

The labour movement is convinced that the ministers' disrespectful behaviour is an indication of the government's uncaring attitude towards the economic hardships faced by citizens.

Source - thenewshawks