Collective bargaining circus continues

June 12, 2020

A new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for the general agriculture sector has been signed even before the minimum wages of the last one have been implemented turning the whole process into a circus.

The agreement signed on 22 May 2020 purportedly took effect on 1 May and sets new minimum wages for the agricultural workers as follows:

General Agriculture Sector Old Minimum Wage New Minimum Wage Wage in US$
Grade ZWL$ ZWL$ US$
A1 550 1200 20.00
A2 590 1287 21.45
A3 649 1417 23.61
B1 694 1513 25.21
B2 743 1620 27.00
B3 804 1753 29.22
B4 871 1900 31.66
B5 943 2057 32.28
C1 1018 2220 37.00
C2 1100 2400 40.00

 

The exchange rate at the parallel market was US$1:ZWL60 in May. In March the poverty datum line (PDL) for an average family of five was $6 420,87 (US$107).

“Our wages have not been adjusted despite the agreement reached between the trade union and the employers last November,” said a woman flower cutter at a rose farm just outside Harare.

A tour of horticulture estates in and around the capital Harare showed workers were still receiving the poverty wages they earned before the November agreement.

The employees blame the clause in the CBA that allows employers to apply for exemption from adjusting wages.

The clause reads: “An establishment or employer may apply to the National Employment Council within 14 days for an exemption or partial exemption/review from paying wages as set up in the above schedule stating the reasons why that application should be considered.”

A spokesperson for the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) confirmed many farmers had not complied with the CBA of November 2019. The CFU is the representative body of large-scale farmers mainly in the horticulture industry.

“We have no idea yet of how many farmers have increased wages. However, most farmers have come up with different ways to proof their employees from economic shocks,” said Chrispen Mununga, CFU spokesman.

But Austin Muswere, spokesman for GAPWUZ said: “Most employers are unwilling to implement better wages and salaries citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Employers who spoke to a May 2020 survey by Hivos and its partner Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ) titled IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THE HORTICULTURE SECTOR IN ZIMBABWE said the pandemic has hit the horticulture sector adversely.

“The flower market collapsed in Europe,” one farmer told the survey. “We had to throw away our flowers because they no longer had a market and Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines were no longer flying too. My farm lost income close to USD1 million.”

Said another farmer: “We have recently witnessed a decline in demand for our flowers. Where we used to do three shipments we had to reduce to one shipment or sometimes none at all. As a result, our flowers have overgrown in the field and were no longer fit for the market; we can’t sell them. It’s huge loss for us because we already invested a lot in production of those flowers.”

The collapse of the floriculture sector has meant more job losses and worsening poverty for workers who are mainly women.