The government and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) could be heading for serious confrontation. The ZCTU which successfully staged a three-day strike from April 23 to 25, is pressing the government to reduce the price of fuel which it recently increased to $450 for petrol and $250 for diesel, but any backtracking by the government could derail its economic reform programme.
At the same time the government cannot ignore the plight of the workers, either. The success of the strike, coming only weeks after another two-day strike called for by the Movement for Democratic Change, clearly shows that people are desperate for change but so far the two strikes have not yielded any change.
The move by the government to appear to be on the workers’ side by announcing a new minimum wage of $22 354.46 for workers in the agricultural sector, $40 860.76 for those in the agro-industry and $46 217.02 for all other workers except domestic workers has been rejected by the labour movement which argues that this falls way below the poverty datum line.
But labour’s demand for a minimum wage of at least $125 000, though reasonable in view of the recent devaluation of the local currency as it translates to only US$156.25, is not likely to be well received by employers who are already complaining that wages are too high.