Nkomo clamps down on wages

The collective bargaining process which was introduced last year is rapidly turning into a sham as Labour Minister John Nkomo is rejecting most of the wage increases suggested by companies. Ironically some of the most weird proposals are being accepted.

This has put the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions into a tight spot and is actually arming employers who can now rightfully boast that they wanted to pay their workers more but "your" government turned this down.

As deputy secretary general Nicholas Mudzengerere said, the labour movement could not understand the logic behind the government's intervention because in the past decade the government had accused the labour movement of being ineffective in bargaining for improved status of the worker and had taken upon itself the role of setting minimum and maximum wage increases.

"Since the introduction of collective bargaining, trade unions have shown their ability to achieve better working conditions for the workers. Now they are being penalised for their effectiveness."

Indeed it is a bit confusing because the increases agreed upon by the workers and management take into consideration the levels of production, escalating commodity prices, rent and rates, transport costs, reintroduction of hospital and educational fees and the general rise in the cost of living.

Nkomo argues that since the assessed growth in manufacturing, agriculture and mining during 1990 was 0.7 per cent while that envisaged for 1991 was 3.1 per cent any hefty wage increases would have a negative impact on the economy.

The clamp seems to have been quite heavy on civil servants and parastatals which the government now wants to operate on a profit basis.

One parastatal which had proposed increases on the sliding scale of 25 to 8 percent was told to stick to the government scale of 11 to 9 percent. The parastatal was also told to forego its annual five per cent increase.

Had there been no government intervention this would have meant that the lowest paid workers would have got away with a cool 30 per cent increase. Another which had agreed on 18 to 22 per cent was told the same thing.

Ironically though, one company which has approved a 10 per cent across the board increment is getting away with it. This means some of the top officials will actually get increments that are above the monthly salaries of some workers.

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