(By Tobias Phiri, Melony Chisanga and Andrew Chileshe)
RAINBOW Party leader Wynter Kabimba has advised labour minister Joyce Nonde Simukoko to “reverse this nonsense” increase of the minimum wage for maids because many of them will soon lose their jobs. And Zambia Federation of Employers executive director Harrington Chibanda says the huge increments are not welcome this time when the Zambian economy is underperforming.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Labour has turned down a request by the Zambia Federation of Employers to reduce the percentage increase to the recently announced minimum wages.
Kabimba said yesterday that the PF government officials did not think when making decisions.
“Men and women, before they make a decision, they walk into the future and figure out what the consequences of that decision shall be and if they see certain misgivings around that decision they will not make it…They [PF] don’t think about most of the decisions they make. If you look at most of the decisions so far, it is clear that there is no thought process that goes in,” Kabimba said yesterday on Hot FM’s ‘The Hot seat’ programme.
“Reverse this nonsense, that is my piece of advice to her [Simukoko]. This is ridiculous, you won’t achieve what you wanted to achieve. You are being populist like [late president] Michael Sata was but you will not get away with it [just] because you think Sata got away with it, not at this time. A lot of maids will be laid off and the Minister of Labour won’t employ them anyway.”
And responding a question on the connection between high maid salaries and job cuts, Kabimba said; “That is the consequent effect, that will be the result. So what the Zambia Federation of Employers are doing is that they are trying to protect the welfare and the lives of the poor maids, that between getting the K500 or K700, which they are getting now and getting zero, they are saying, they are better retaining the K500 or K700. Life in this country is just unbearable for everybody.”
He said the PF had failed to run the economy.
“Why haven’t they reduced the price of commodities? Why do they allow Shoprite to continue charging high prices for food commodities? Why is it that the income of a number of people is not rising? Why is it that the mining companies that are making money in this country are not being taxed to the level that they should be taxed? So whom are you punishing? You are punishing the citizens during a period when the economy is a runaway economy. Whether we like it or not, PF has failed to manage the economy,” said Kabimba.
And in a statement, Chibanda stated that there was need for employers to be given what they could afford to pay for them to remain in business.
“The Zambia Federation of Employers does not welcome the huge increments in the minimum wages of 50 per cent for general and shop workers and 100 per cent for domestic workers. As the economy is underperforming, wage increments must be placed at sustainable levels,” Chibanda stated.
He further stated that in the midst of increased minimum wage, companies would opt to reduce the number of workers for them to afford the introduced wages.
“Effectively, what is meant to be good for employees will become bad for some of them as it will cause loss of jobs to them. We have high levels of unemployment in this country so the biggest concern to our government and the various stakeholders should be about employment creation in various sectors of our economy and so we should be hearing more pronouncements about creating an enabling environment for employment creation from our government and not always making announcements that are increasing the cost of doing business which threaten the few jobs that are available in the country,” stated Chibanda, adding that the percentage increment for both industry and domestic wages was very high for business to survival.
“This is the reason why ZFE proposed that the minimum wages should be increased by 21 per cent, which in our view was going to be a fair deal for both the employers and our workers. Unfortunately, both the government and the labour movement objected to our proposal and pushed for 50 per cent for shop workers and 100 per cent for domestic workers.”
He stated that more time was needed for the employers to renegotiate the contracts with their employees.
Chibanda appealed to the minister to extend the implementation dates to next year.
But Simukoko, in a letter to Zambia Federation of Employers dated September 6, 2018, said the consultative process was very exhaustive.
“Reference is made to your letter dated 1st August, 2018 on the above subject matter. I take note of the contents of the letter and the request made by the Federation. However, I wish to guide as follows: (i) The consultative process was very exhaustive in the tripartite manner as provided for in the Industrial and Labour Relations Act Cap 269 of the Laws of Zambia. This was in a spirit of enhancing a wide national consultation and promotion of social dialogue on such important national issues. (ii) while we appreciate your very wide engagement with the affiliates of the Federation, it is not possible to take the submission of the affiliate employers’ association to Zambia Federation of Employers away from the Tripartite Consultative Labour Council (TCLC), a forum at which they were represented through ZFE,” Simukoko stated in part.
“(iii) The legitimacy for consultation of employers’ associations on such matters is done to duly registered associations of employers in accordance with Section 2 (4) of the Industrial and Labour Relations Act CAP 269 of the Laws of Zambia through the Zambia Federation of Employers. Records at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security show that most of your affiliated employers’ associations are not duly registered.”
She stated that her office was ready to dialogue with stakeholders.
“Notwithstanding the fact that some are not registered, my office stands ready to always
dialogue with stakeholders. You as ZFE should have raised these issues at the TCLC of 19 May 2018. You, however, want to undo the resolutions of a validly constituted TCLC. This works against the principle of social dialogue because each of the tripartite partners could raise a similar objection from one or two of its affiliates. The TCLC remains the legal procedure by which policy matters are settled,” stated Simukoko.