Strikes galore


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There were strikes galore in both the public and private sectors at the beginning of 2003 as inflation took a bite.

Inflation which was to become the nation’s biggest enemy stood at 269 percent at the time, but went on to reach millions five years later forcing the government to stop counting.

Teachers went on strike demanding salaries to be increased from Z$60 000 to Z$268 000.

Power utility employees wanted a 50 percent increase across the board.

Air Zimbabwe engineers were granted a 300 percent hike. The government had every reason to concede because it was paying South African engineers US$55 an hour to replace Zimbabwean workers.

Standard Bank employees demanded a 65 percent increase.

Most multinational companies were now adjusting their salaries every quarter.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE1009, Labor Strike Updates

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Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

03HARARE1009

2003-05-22 09:54

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS HARARE 001009

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR AF/S

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER

USDOC FOR 2037 DIEMOND

PASS USTR ROSA WHITAKER

TREASURY FOR ED BARBER AND CWILKENSON

DEPARTMENT PASS USAID FOR MAJORIE COPSON

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: ELAB ECON PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: Labor Strike Updates

 

Ref: Harare 135

 

¶1. Summary: Public and private sector strikes are on the

rise. Given the state of this free-falling economy,

however, it is doubtful many workers will come out ahead.

End Summary.

 

¶2. Public school teachers recently lost a court ruling and,

on instruction from the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association

(ZIMTA), are returning to work. They had been striking

since May 8, demanding a salary increase from Z$ 60,000 (US$

29) to Z$ 268,000 (US$ 128)/month. Workers at electricity

parastatal ZESA began striking on May 20, asking for 50

percent across-the-board increases. The GOZ recently met

most demands of striking Air Zimbabwe engineers, boasting

salaries about 300 percent to as high as Z$ 430,000 (US$

205)/month (ref).

 

¶3. There have also been assorted cases of private sector

labor unrest. Most recently workers at Standard Bank

Zimbabwe have threatened to strike if management does not

meet demands for a 65 percent cost-of-living adjustment.

Many security companies, who generally pay guards less than

US$ 10/month, are also facing strikes.   Most multinationals

we speak with now readjust worker salaries each quarter.

 

Comment

——-

¶4. With inflation raging at 269 percent and the Zimdollar

having lost 84 percent of its value in a year, workers are

fighting a losing battle. The GOZ considers indexing

salaries to hard currency or inflation a taboo topic. In

U.S. dollar terms, salaries of the highest paid AirZim

engineers have already shrunk from $ 289 to 205 since the

GOZ caved in to union demands in January. By the end of

2003, the engineers may be earning less than before the

strike began. Still, given the plight of the Zimbabwean

worker, we expect growing numbers of public and private

sector strikes.

 

¶5. The AirZim strike shows that the GOZ will meet worker

demands when it makes financial sense. AirZim was paying

South African engineers US$ 55/hour to replace Zimbabwean

workers, so the GOZ had every reason to settle with workers

for any price in its monopoly-money currency. Given the

sensitivity of electricity parastatal ZESA, local sources

believe chances are good the GOZ will cede to demands. On

the other hand, since the GOZ considers many teachers

staunch Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters,

labor sources believe the teachers will have more of an

uphill climb.

 

Whitehead

 

(7 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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