By Albert Nxumalo
A vast majority of working Zimbabweans are dissatisfied with their remuneration and working conditions, hence frequent strikes particularly civil servants, a new report has indicated.
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJPZ) in it’s latest report titled, “The Zimbabwean Citizens Ideas on the Economy They Want” implored Government to periodically review salaries of restive civil servants and be in line with poverty datum levels in a bid to avert unending strikes.
The report was on Thursday formally launched and presented to the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda.
As part of the social arm of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC), CCJPZ embarked on a research on different communities at provincial levels ‘to collect their views on the economy they wish would enhance their lives”.
According to the report seen by CITE, the key issues centre on equality and non– discrimination, labour rights, right to education, right to health care, right to food and water, right of persons with disabilities, housing, employment, public transport system and road infrastructure.
On salaries and wages, the report said there was enough evidence that “most working Zimbabweans are not satisfied with their remuneration which is not enough to cater for their basic living expenses”.
This has led to frequent industrial action by workers who are risking their jobs as current labour laws are “unfriendly”.
“Public school teachers, nurses and doctors have all engaged in collective job action demanding better wages and salaries.
“The COVID – 19 pandemic has made the situation worse with most companies failing to pay their workers due to revenue loss and some retailers hiking prices of products and demanding United States dollars albeit informally.
“The common demand all disgruntled workers are making is for wages and salaries to be paid in the United States dollar or the equivalent, however, the country has since de-dollarised and uses the Zimbabwean dollar as the official local currency,” it said.
Civil servants particularly teachers and health workers have been on strike for greater part of the year demanded better salaries in United States dollars.
The educators are demanding between US$520 and US$550, but government maintained that the demands are “outrageous”, and has no capacity to pay US dollar salaries.
However, CCJPZ said while the recently launched National Development Strategy 1 promises regular review of wage levels that resonates with citizen’s concerns, the “NDS1 is vague on actual comprehensive strategies for the regular review of wages and salaries”.
As part of recommendations on wages and salaries the report said “from these findings on wages and salaries, CCJPZ recommends: The creation of a structure or framework for the regular review of wages and salaries in relation to current economic indicators.
“The state should set reasonable limits for the minimum wage in the country across all industries to avoid underpaying”.
It also recommended the encouragement of non-financial incentives in both the public and private sector and the regular audit of companies’ wage structure across all industries to bring it in compliance with national policies.
On labour rights the report said the Labour Act on collective job action sets out conditions under which collective job action is considered legal and the protection of both employee and employer during strikes or demonstrations.
However, the legislation makes it extremely difficult for employees to conduct lawful collective job action because of the frustrating bureaucracy involved.
It said applications to conduct a strike take long to approve and do not have a cap or time interval for which employees can carry out the strike if the cap is reached and passed without reply of acceptance or denial.
“Some citizens say they have general fear to protest and strike for better wages, salaries and working conditions as they are likely to lose their jobs or face intimidation long after the collective job action.”
Scores of nurses have been struck off the payroll for being on strike.
It urged government to regulate the provision of proper working conditions in both the private and public sector raise awareness of labour rights and the Labour Act among workers.
On basic Education, the report said the COVID-19 pandemic saw the severe disruptions in the education sector with final examination class most affected.
“Unfortunately the mitigation measures by the state did nothing to address these inefficiencies and students have been forced to write examinations against popular advice”.