Security guards have threatened to embark on a strike demanding a review of their salaries with the lowest paid employee currently earning ZW$35000.
They are demanding to be paid a minimum salary of US$254 per month.
Employers have offered to pay them $65 000 for the month of July, $75 000 for August and $85 000 in September.
Private Security Workers Union (PSWU), which represents more than 10 security companies, lamented that their salaries continue to be eroded and cannot sustain their members and their families.
Negotiations between the employees and employers have been ongoing but have reached a deadlock, as the latter is reluctant to beg salaries in local currency at the prevailing exchange rate or even pay wages in US dollars.
“We are not rejecting the RTGS as a legal tender but it must be anchored on the exchange rate so that it doesn’t fluctuate in value,” said Mdladla Nduna, a PSWU negotiator while addressing security guards at a feedback meeting in Bulawayo Monday.
“The employers wanted to stagger salaries to pay $48 000 for July, $59 000 for August and $61 000 for September. That was their position which we did not accept. The employers upped their offer to $50 600 in July, $61 000 for August and $83 000 for September and we were still not moved.”
Nduna said at the latest meeting employers made the latest offer of $65 000 for July.
“We refused and said looking at the volatility of the RTGS they better pay us RTGS 100 000 for July then we sit down to discuss salaries for August and September. The employers said it’s too much,” said the negotiator.
“If we divide the $100 000 by the current formal exchange rate of US$1: ZW$392 that money is US$254 and this US$254 will only settle for the month of July.”
The PSWU negotiator noted that initially the security industry wanted US$260 but dropped down by six points to US$254.
“The employers maintained their fallback position of $65 000 for the month of July, $75 000 for August and $85 000 in September and there was a deadlock,” he said.
Since there was a deadlock, their matter was referred to the full council of the National Employment Council (NEC), which is the highest decision-making body.
“Either the issue will go for arbitration where litigation starts or the full council can make a decision and that is the current position,” he said.
Nduna stated how the employers claimed that they received tenders from the government, which did not want to pay reasonable tariffs.
“Employers claimed if they received RTGS90 000 from the government how were they supposed to pay us but the State plays a parental loco role, so are we suffering due to the government? As employees we don’t believe in that, so we must also meet the Ministry of Industry and Home Affairs,” he said.
Security guards fully backed this position, saying US$254 should be their average salary.
They concurred that if the employers fail to realise how dire their situation was, then industrial action would make them open their eyes.
“This means private security officers would not be seen guarding any building, shop, properties or premises,” said the security guards.
President of PSWU, Gilbert Zhou said security firms charged at least US$27 an hour and usually, premises were guarded for 12 hours.
“At the current exchange rate, it means one security guard brings in $10 500 if we use the US$1: ZWL$392 exchange rate. After 30 days, that money in RTGS, may be ZWL$316 710. If you divide RTGS316 710 by 392 it is US$808. But the employer gives the worker just US$41 which is RTGS 35 000,” he said.
“That is insanity. A pay is meant to enable people to come to work and survive.”
After receiving a consensus from the security workers, PSWU Secretary General, John Tarisai Manyuchi, said he would draft a letter to the three employer boards, the Zimbabwe Indigenous National Security Association (ZINSA), ZIPISA and SAZ including the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare notifying them about their intentions.
“We will wait for the NEC’s full council to meet first to discuss the matter, the date which will be communicated to us by the NEC secretary general. Then we will notify them about our intentions by serving them the letter,” he said.