Salaries gap widens

HARARE - The salaries gap in Zimbabwe continues to widen with executives now earning at least $15 000 per month while “shop floor workers” take home way less than $500.

Human resources experts say the disparities in earnings is mainly influenced by skill, with skilled workers individually negotiating salaries with employers while the unskilled or low-ranking workers depend on collective representation for salary reviews.

Although workers’ earnings are influenced by a number of factors including qualifications, experience and position of influence, trade unions have called for salaries to be automatically adjusted in line with the Poverty Datum Line (PDL), which currently stands at just below $600, to ensure the purchasing power remains stable.

Currently, Zimbabwe has three labour unions namely Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) and the recently established Zimbabwe Industrial Revolution Workers’ Federation (ZIRWF).

Analysts say the number of labour bodies has increased, but without really pushing for the “good cause” of employees, and they seem to be competing for membership and recognition, which is not healthy for employees.

Taurai Musakaruka, an independent human resources practitioner, said the theory that the exceptional talents of executives and their capacity for hard-work to justify their high salaries was questionable.

“It is right to ask how much of their salary is due to insight, flair and hard-work and how much good luck and being in the right place at the right time. We need to ensure that real leadership qualities are fairly assessed and that bullying and ruthlessness are recognised as destructive to morale and loyalty,” said Musakaruka.

Basically, most ordinary workers are earning way below the PDL and this is because of a number of macro-economic factors as well as political fundamentals.

Musakaruka added that one of the biggest undoing Zimbabwe had was the division of representatives of workers and labour unions which are clueless, thereby failing employees big time.

“Employee welfare issues have been relegated to the periphery because of economic challenges and their representatives are failing to fully stand for employee rights and as a result some employers are taking advantage of this and paying employees wages not even enough to cater for their basics or to take them to the next pay day, while at the same time fattening their pockets,” he said.

Musakaruka added that the steep increase of executives’ salaries had less to do with the complexities of the job and more with the competition for talent.

“In some countries, these salaries are made public and are declared, but here (Zimbabwe) it’s a top secret and employees are only told we are making losses and some employers do not even show employees these ‘losses’.

“Cars are being bought every day and people are going on holidays while the ordinary employee is told of losses,” he said.

Nhamo Kwaramba, a human resources consultant, said the PDL should be revised as employers have an obligation to pay minimum salary scales for unionised workers although they are disadvantaged by protracted negotiations by Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) through negotiations by respective National Employment Councils (Necs) for the industry.

“As such they pay salaries commensurate with CBAs, usually the minimum salary for each grade and feels no obligation to pay more.

“This is different from the way salaries are decided for executives who in many cases exert undue influence on the process.

“The majority are shareholders and sit on decision making bodies where they use their clout to turn decisions in their favour,” said Kwaramba. - Kudzai Chawafambira

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