Workers in a desperate situation: ZCTU

Workers in Zimbabwe are now in a desperate situation following the return of the local currency, which continues to lose value in an ever-deteriorating economy, a trade unionist has said.

Addressing the ongoing Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ) 37th annual congress in Bulawayo on Wednesday, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president, Peter Mutasa, said the government’s reintroduction of the Zimbabwe dollar was not only regrettable but had caused untold suffering on the country’s workforce.

The congress is running under the theme: “Managing Turbulence for sustainable Business: Transition from Multiple Currency to a single currency economy.”

“Clearly the working people of Zimbabwe have lost substantial value in their earnings, pensions and insurance products and are essentially incapacitated to work as they earn in the fast depreciating RTGS Dollars,” said Mutasa.

“Workers and Zimbabweans are now desperate. Everyone is desperate as inflation hits over the roof. Prices of basic commodities are beyond everyone except the few.

When we said we want to be paid in US dollars, we were all shot down as unpatriotic.”

 He argued that a stable currency is for the benefit of both workers and business adding that in the turbulent environment it is difficult to plan with prices changing every minute.

“The ZCTU has not moved from its position that workers be paid in US dollars or its equivalent at inter-market bank rate. This is the only way workers can manage their lives in these turbulent times,” he argued.

The trade unionist took a swipe at the government’s failure to consult and engage before coming up with economic policies, arguing, the reintroduction of the local currency was prematurely done.

“When government promulgated Statutory Instrument 142 of 2019, we made it known our displeasure against the move and that we are not ready for it and that the macroeconomic fundamentals were not yet in place to support such a move,” posited Mutasa.

“Above all, we said such a critical issue should have been subjected to intense dialogue, and it smacks of hypocrisy and is patronising for government to unilaterally make such a huge policy announcement at a time social partners were supposed to meet under the auspices of the recently enacted Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF).”

Mutasa said labour was disturbed by the government’s insincerity when it comes to economic policies and decisions.

He said: “We publicly said that the government has been taking people for granted for quite some time, lying when it introduced the bond notes in 2016 that they were adequately backed by lines of credit from Afreximbank; the government also lied that the 1:1 exchange rate between the USD and RTGS$ was also backed by adequate lines of credit when they separated Nostro and RTGS Foreign Accounts (FCAs) in October 2018, and again they lied  that the inter-bank foreign exchange market would stabilise after its introduction in February 2019 on the back of ‘unproven’ external lines of credit. These all proved to be false guarantees as the local currency could not hold against the USD and other foreign currencies.”

He said ironically, it was the government’s profligacy and fiscal imprudence that led to the debauching of the Zimbabwe Dollar in 2009 when inflation shot through the roof.

Mutasa said the multicurrency system which was terminated on June 24 this year should have been allowed to remain in place.

“Following that diabolical announcement (banning of multicurrency), the workers who in some instances were being cushioned by having part of their wages and salaries paid in USD have lost that benefit,” he bemoaned.

However, Industry and Commerce Minister, Nqobizitha Ndlovu, addressing the same conference on Thursday said Zimbabwe cannot afford to dollarize, arguing the economy did not grow but only stabilised during the early years of the multicurrency system.

But EMCOZ acting president, Israel Murefu, said with the market still relying on exchange rates to price goods, there was no doubt dollarisation was fast forcing its way back.

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