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$55 an hour to replace Zimbabwean workers.
Standard Bank employees demanded a 65 percent increase.
Most multinational companies were now adjusting their salaries every quarter.
Viewing cable 03HARARE1009, Labor Strike Updates
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HARARE 001009
STATE FOR AF/S
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER
USDOC FOR 2037 DIEMOND
PASS USTR ROSA WHITAKER
TREASURY FOR ED BARBER AND CWILKENSON
DEPARTMENT PASS USAID FOR MAJORIE COPSON
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Labor Strike Updates
Ref: Harare 135
Â¶1. Summary: Public and private sector strikes are on the
rise. Given the state of this free-falling economy,
however, it is doubtful many workers will come out ahead.
Â¶2. Public school teachers recently lost a court ruling and,
on instruction from the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association
(ZIMTA), are returning to work. They had been striking
since May 8, demanding a salary increase from Z$ 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$
Â¶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.
Â¶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
Â¶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