The Sunday Mail
Enacy Mapakame Business Reporter
AS workers around the globe prepare to celebrate International Workers’ Day on Thursday, a day venerated for the martyrdom of four workers who were shot on May 1, 1886 in Chicago, United States, for striking for an eight-hour workday, local workers face the grim realities of the ever-shrinking disposable incomes.
The income disparities between top managers and shop-floor workers has become increasingly worrying.
Statistics from a local consultancy firm, Stallone Consultancy, show that the gap between top managers and general workers widened to 14,8 percent in the first three months of 2014, from 8 percent recorded in the same period a year earlier.
The gap was measured at 31,9 percent and 8,5 percent in 2011 and 2012 respectively. The average ratio for highest paid executives to employees increased to 1:62 during the review period, up from 1:54 for the whole of 2013.
This implies that on average a top manager with a local firm earned 62 times more than a general hand with the same company.
In other words, if a factory cleaner’s monthly income averaged US$100, the production manager probably took home US$6 200, equal to what the cleaner would earn over a five-year period. The survey results also show that only a few sectors are paying remuneration close to the Poverty Datum Line (PDL) figure of US$514.
Average pay and allowances for the aviation sector are currently above the PDL at US$579, translating to a 113 percent of the PDL, while remuneration for the insurance sector is marginally lower at US$546.
Electronic and telecommunications, energy as well as food and bakery sectors offer US$456, US$452 and US$415 in that order.
Agriculture and sugar milling sectors are the least paying sectors with average salaries of US$70 and US$127 respectively, a far cry from the PDL remuneration workers have been clamouring for.
Other sectors paying below 50 percent of the PDL are tobacco grading, leather and footwear, chemical and fertilisers, clothing, security, mining and ferro-alloy sectors.
Last week, Stallone Consultancy managing consultant Mr Zack Murerwa said there is need for a multi-faceted effort to save companies that have remained resilient to the current shocks experienced throughout the economy.
He said the first quarter of the year had been a nightmare for workers.
“The economy is bad, workers are dejected and they have nothing to celebrate. The situation is different from decades back.
“It is quite obvious that companies continue to struggle to pay basic minimum wages, with quite a number failing to pay salaries on time. The activities of the first quarter of 2014 have been negative and have sent wrong signals to workers.”
Mr Murerwa noted that there is still room for Government and all stakeholders to negotiate for better packages for workers.
“The only appropriate forum where Government, labour and employers can be involved is through social dialogue. As we commemorate May Day 2014, the Ministry of Labour has already done excellent work in terms of drafting requirements or preparing a draft for the social economic dialogue platform which will come in form of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum.
“It is at such a forum that all stakeholders can negotiate and transform the current labour economy into a highly productive one,” he said.
A 33-year-old construction worker, Mr Godfrey Kasiyachengu, said although he was still formally employed, the future is too ghastly to contemplate.
“Thursday (Workers’ Day) will just be a day to rest at home; celebrations will only come if the economy changes. At the moment, only those who are well remunerated can celebrate the day,” he said.
Another employee in the retail business, who refused to be named for fear of victimisation, said the irony in today’s workplace was that more work equals less remuneration.
A shrinking job market has consequently bred exploitative tendencies in the workplace.
“I understand the economy is bad but I wish we could share the little we are making. It’s sad that we work hard and get little, even if you work extra hours it is not paid for, but it is still better to get a cent than nothing at all,” she said.
Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ) executive director Mr John Mufukari said the employers’ group was looking at a situation where both business and workers would meet amicably through their representatives to reach a consensus for the revival of industries and the economy.
“Our economy has taken a nosedive, and who would celebrate under such circumstances? Maybe only a few corrupt individuals, but who will they be representing?” quizzed Mr Mufukari.
Zimbabwe boasted one of the strongest economies in Southern Africa in the eighties, with a competitive currency, high employment rates, abundant agricultural and industrial output.
Its food production was unmatched in the region.
However, more than a decade of recession since the late 1990s, flared by economic sanctions, drove the economy to its knees.
Government has, however, been trying to improve the welfare of workers in the public sector.
Civil servants began receiving their pay increase in April this year after Government and civil service representatives struck a pay deal in January.
The new pay structure will see the least paid in Government getting about three quarters of the PDL.