BY MOSES MATENGA
THE opposition MDC has joined forces the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) banner to push for salaries in United States dollars, with the labour body saying workers are itching for mass action to demand their rights.
MDC leader Nelson Chamisa yesterday said government must act to ensure workers were paid in US dollars under the circumstances as the Zimbabwe dollar experiment had failed to work in the hyperinflationary environment.
“Pay workers a decent wage in United States dollars,” Chamisa in an interview.
“Workers are getting peanuts, they deserve their salaries in US dollars and that should be done.
“They get nothing when they are expected to be productive and to eke a living and meet transport costs, electricity when in fact those costs are being charged in US dollars seeing that government has pegged fuel prices in US dollars, property owners are charging in US dollars, so government cannot escape this one.”
“Government can’t expect to levy people in US dollars, but fails to pay in US dollars, it can’t work and it will not work.”
Chamisa said the MDC would stand in solidarity with workers in whatever action they would do to push government for a living wage but said they would not politicise a genuine workers’ grievance as it affects every worker.
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Chamisa’s party last week revealed that it was joining hands with “progressive” Zimbabweans to mobilise for protests against the deteriorating economic situation in the country under President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The ZCTU leadership recently embarked on a whirlwind tour of provinces to mobilise the union’s membership to take action to join the protests although no dates have been given so far.
ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo said workers were speaking with one voice and itching for mass action to force government into paying them in a stable currency.
“The workers’ issue is uniform throughout the country. The issue is mainly on Statutory Instrument 142 of 2019, it has to go because it has impoverished them, all our problems,” Moyo said.
“They want to be remunerated in a currency that has got value; they don’t believe that what has been peddled as the national minimum wage is the solution.
“They believe that the best way to go is to adopt a currency that has got value and is stable.”
Moyo said workers preferred being paid in the South African rand or United States dollars.
“The best way will be to confront government or withdraw our labour,” he said.
“Those are two main issues that we want our money in foreign currency, whether it is rand or the American dollar, or we will face off in the streets if that is not done, so we wait to see what happens when we get feedback from government,” Moyo said.
The ZCTU consulted with its members across the county including Bulawayo, Gweru, Masvingo, Chinhoyi and then Harare, but police blocked them from meeting workers in Mutare.
Moyo revealed that the workers had directed them to get feedback from this week’s meeting of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF), which brings together government, business and labour, and decide on the next step.
“We went to our six regions; the objective of the verbal forum was to get the mandate of the people on the current TNF,” he said.
“The workers told us that we should go to the TNF as we fought for it for over 20 years and it’s now there and also legislation about it.
“They also told us to put before the TNF that they want a living wage; a salary based on the interbank rate or be paid in the US dollar or rand. These were made clear by the workers.”
He added: “A decision is going to be taken after we hear what is coming from Cabinet and the TNF this week.
“If Cabinet says nothing, we will call for a stayaway in the next weeks.”
The Zimbabwe dollar, which was re-introduced in June last year, has drastically lost value, pushing prices of basic commodities beyond the reach of many.