Bonus payment hangs in the balance

As the month of November nears, the payment of bonuses for the majority of the country’s workforce hangs in the balance, with the government also still undecided over the 13th cheque for the civil servants.

Ministry of Finance and Economic Development officials on Monday told Parliament the government had not yet made a decision on whether civil servants will be paid bonuses this year as they needed to consult workers’ representatives first.

The government is currently in salary negotiations with civil servants who are now demanding US$475 or local currency equivalent for the lowest paid worker.

Bonuses in Zimbabwe have traditionally been paid in November to boost workers’ income as they enter into the festive season, but since the economy took a nosedive a number of companies stopped paying them.

The government, which has maintained the practice despite economists having warned it was unsustainable to continue doing so, paid bonuses on basic salaries only last year.

Other allowances such as housing and others were not catered for.

Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ) president, Israel Murefu, told CITE they did not have one standpoint as employers on the payments of bonuses.

“On such issues, we do not have one position,” he said.

“Each organisation will have to look at its own circumstances and if they are able to pay bonuses, they can go ahead and pay. However, most of them are struggling and I will not be surprised if they fail to their workers bonuses.”

He said a number of challenges including energy, water and foreign currency availability were negatively affecting businesses.

Murefu added it did not make any economic sense for businesses struggling to surpass their targets or operating on losses to pay bonuses.

Economist, at the National University of Science and Technology’s Department of Banking and Investment promotion, Stevenson Dlamini, said conditions under which Zimbabwean companies are operating defeat the whole purpose of bonus payments.

“The whole idea behind bonus payment is to celebrate a surplus and a productive year but companies are downsizing and closing and therefore it would not make any economic sense to pay bonuses,” he told CITE.

Dlamini said companies should instead reinvest the little money that they have to create more jobs instead of wasting it on bonuses.

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