THE Progressive Agriculture and Allied Industries Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Paawuz) has asked the government to increase the minimum wage for farm workers by at least 100% to $150 per month, saying the current payments were peanuts.
Paawuz general secretary, Raymond Sixpence told NewsDay that the least paid worker in the agriculture sector was getting $75 per month and this was unsustainable.
“The National Social Security Authority pensioners are getting about $80 per month but farm workers are getting $75. This is not sustainable given that the cost of living has gone up,” he said.
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“We are going to engage the government over the matter because workers are suffering.
“Actually, they are working for the stomach. We wish the salaries could be reviewed upwards to $150 per month for the lowest paid worker.”
The cost of living, as measured by the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe low income urban earner monthly basket for a family of six, increased at the end of March 2018 from $588,70 to $591,58 at the end of April 2018, an increase of $2,88.
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Sixpence said farm workers in Zimbabwe were literally modern-day slaves, yet agriculture is the backbone of the country’s economy.
“They are working, but they are destitute,” he said.
“We have gone back to the colonial era, where workers were working for the stomach.”
Sixpence said the money they were getting was not enough, as they they have families to look after.
“They are expected to pay school fees for their children.
“They must feed them, pay medical aid; but how can they do that with $75 per month?
“We are reliably informed that some employers are giving workers groceries on credit but charge them exorbitant prices,” he said.
Sixpence castigated President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration for prioritising politics at the expense of the plight of workers.
He also lambasted the National Employment Council for agriculture for blocking them from joining the council, so that they could negotiate for wage increase and allowances for workers, yet their union was registered on September 19, 2016.
Last year, farm workers and employers agreed a salary increment of 4,2% or $3 for 2017, which saw the lowest earner being paid $75 per month and the highest earning $150.
In South Africa, the lowest paid farm workers earn about $230 per month.
According to a 2016 report, Working and Living Conditions of Workers in the Agricultural sector in Zimbabwe compiled by Naome Chakanya, from 2011 to 2016, wages for farm workers failed to keep pace with both the food poverty line and the poverty datum line (PDL), thus reducing the workers to the “working poor”.
Currently, PDL is estimated at almost $600-Newsday