Zvamaida Murwira and Rudo Muchedzi
The new Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) comprising the Government, business and labour, held its inaugural meeting yesterday seeking solutions to the erosion of wages and salaries due to price increases.
The process of aligning wages and prices dominated yesterday’s deliberations, with the meeting discussing at length factors like currency stability, the poverty datum line, and the three-tier pricing system used in some sectors of business.
While the meeting agreed on issues to do with the economy and other aspects, no agreement was reached on a formula to link wages and salaries to inflation.
This resulted in the main item being referred to the technical team for further consideration.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima chaired the meeting, while the Government team, comprising seven ministers, was led by Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube, with Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) president Dr Israel Murefu leading the business team, with Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Mr Peter Mutasa leading labour.
Briefing journalists after the five-hour meeting, Prof Mavima said: “On the issue of erosion of wages and salaries, the meeting mandated the technical committee to further examine the matter with a view to reconvene and conclude the matter on Friday 7 February 2020.”
Sources who attended the meeting said business wanted minimum wages set as a percentage of the poverty datum line, while labour felt doing so would erode their salaries.
“Business felt that wages should be at least 50 percent of the poverty datum line while labour felt that this would undermine their sweat, resulting in referring the item to the technical committee,” said a source.
There was concern, particularly from business, who felt there was no clarity on whether the country was using mono-currency or multi-currencies, given that some traders were charging in foreign currency. Big business felt stifled as law enforcement agencies were not dealing with informal unlicensed businesses trading in foreign currency yet would jump on any infringements by larger concerns.
“It was the small and unregulated businesses that were using the three-tier pricing system. Prof Ncube was clear that the country was using monocurrency, but said since it was a transitional period from multi-currency. Full implementation might take long,” said another source.
Prof Mavima said it was agreed that Government should continue to operate within its budget and that there should be elimination of all quasi-fiscal activities by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. The channelling of all subsidies and quasi-fiscal expenditures should be done through Treasury alone.
“Government should desist from using borrowing facilities at the central bank. Government should strive to maintain a stable exchange rate. Tripartite partners renewed commitment to embrace social dialogue as the primary means of rebuilding confidence in the country. Monetary authorities must commit to targeted growth in money supply,” said Prof Mavima.
It was agreed that there should be measures to make foreign currency available in a transparent and market driven system.
“The meeting agreed that measures should be put in place to fight corruption and cartels operating within the economy and put in place measures to curb illicit financial outflows,” said Prof Mavima.
“The meeting also adopted a recommendation to expedite agreed public sector and parastatal reforms, including implementation of the National Code and Corporate Governance.”
There was also an agreement to promote productivity through operationalisation of the National Productivity Institute and expediting the ease of doing business reforms to promote both foreign and local investors.
“There was agreement to expedite the legislative reforms focusing on the Labour Act and Public Service Act, Health Services Act, National Productivity Institute and National Occupational Health and Safety Act and adopt and implement a formalisation strategy for the informal sector. The partners agreed to revamp the social services delivery system, focusing on education, health, shelter and food security including the establishment of a National Health Insurance Scheme,” said Prof Mavima.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa; Industry and Commerce Minister Sekai Nzenza; Energy and Power Development Deputy Minister Magna Mudyiwa; and Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos also attended the meeting representing Government.