Good news for Zim workers

Goche, who is in Namibia on a reciprocal visit to one paid by Namibian Labour Minister Alpheus !Naruseb two months ago also said that Zimbabwe seeks co-operation with Namibia in a number of areas ranging from labour administration, social security issues and the general social protection of citizens.

He said that the purpose of his visit to Namibia is to exchange information on what his ministry is doing in Zimbabwe and what is being done in Namibia.

Goche, in a wide-ranging interview with The Southern Times, praised the Namibian pension payment system, which he said is more advanced and benefits more people. He said that Zimbabwe could learn a lot from the Namibian system, which he said prevents a lot of fraud.

“Their system could prevent frauds taking place and I might have to send back certain officials who are responsible for pensions and other social welfare and public assistance programmes to look close at how their systems operate,” Goche said.

Turning to the plight of the Zimbabwean workers and pensioners, the Zimbabwean minister said that government raises pension payouts in line with salary adjustments for civil servants.

This has resulted in pensioners’ salaries being paid in line with the inflation trend and the salaries awarded to civil servants.

He however said that government was worried not only by the plight of pensioners but the general working class.

He said that civil servants’ salaries are not as high as those working in the private sector.

The Zimbabwean government last increased the salaries for civil servants in May this year and Goche hinted that they could be raised again before the end of the year.

“We are actively looking at how we may make some adjustments to cushion workers against the harsh economic conditions,” Goche said.

He added that government would soon be decentralising pension payment offices to districts to cater for pensioners who are faced with ballooning transport costs.

He said that government would want pension payments to be decentralised to district offices to prevent pensioners from incurring transport costs to get their pension payments.

There have always been conflicting reports about Zimbabwe’s unemployment rates and Goche said that the rate of unemployment was lower than widely stated.

He said a lot of Zimbabweans who are not in formal employment are involved in running their own small business and most of them have turned to farming.

“When we take that into consideration, our unemployment is not high as portrayed in the media,” Goche said.

“But when you are looking at formal employment, employment in the industry, in the government, in various sectors, probably that is where you would say it is 80 percen.

“But if a person gainfully employed, making a living out of something, then they are employed because they are earning a living out of something they are doing.

“There are various figures that the central statistics office has been giving us but generally (formal) unemployment could be as high as 40 percent to 50 percent,” Goche said.

He said that the Zimbabwean government has come up with a Skills Retention Fund, which is aimed at addressing the concerns of professionals in the public service.

Goche admitted that brain drain was having a negative impact on the Zimbabwean economy adding that there are now a lot of vacant senior positions in the public service.

“We are concerned about the brain drain and we are investing a lot in training, yet people are looking elsewhere to give their services.

“Within the region of course we have this protocol, free movement of human beings and services, so we cannot stop people from offering their services and professional expertise.

The Public Service Commission chairman Mariyawanda Nzuwa chairs the Fund.

“We are not only looking at salaries, although it is one of the major conditions of service but there are other important conditions, long term because with salaries you are always chasing after inflation.

“We are also looking at accommodation, transport and many more incentives.”

He slammed the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions for reneging on the Tripartite Negotiating Forum, which had been meeting with government to iron out the price and income stabilisation protocol.

Goche said that the price and income stabilisation protocol is one way government, unions and business could co-operate and be able to win the inflation battle.

“But we have not been able to do that because previously the problem was unity.

“The ZCTU was pursuing a political agenda and therefore they did not want to co-operate with us,” Goche said.

He added that ZCTU’s general membership sees the income and stabilisation protocol as an answer to their problems since it would present a check on both the movement of prices and awarding of wages and salaries.

“I do not think that both business and labour are willing to sign this protocol which will give stability to the country because their external handlers would not allow that.

“When they realised that ZCTU is under pressure from its general membership and agreed to go and sign, they then turned to business to say ‘you have no mandate to sign this protocol which means price controls’,” Goche said.

“As government we have no problems with setting salaries in line with poverty datum line, negotiators must take into account PDL and the ability of that company to pay,” Goche said.

“That ability to pay must also be taken into consideration, we can’t just take into consideration one aspect as we negotiate all the factors.

“Is the company able to absorb the wage bill? Then they must agree at a level where the company would be allowed to continue to produce,” he said.

The minister also said that government has been trying hard to make sure that workers and the general population has access to health facilities but more specifically, access to treatment for those infected with HIV/AIDS.

He said that the AIDS levy, a tax, which is levied on the working people to provide funds for treatment and prevention of the HIV/AIDS scourge had gone a long way in helping to combat the pandemic.

Government is also forging ahead with plans to establish a plant to manufacture its own anti-retroviral drugs, which are regarded as the life-blood for people living with HIV/AIDS, he said.

October 2006
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