80 000 workers are victims of wage theft


Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary general, Japhet Moyo

 A SURVEY conducted by the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ) in partnership with the Solidarity Centre has revealed that more than 80 000 workers are victims of wage theft.

Wage theft is the denial of wages or employee benefits that are rightfully owed to a worker through various means such as failure to pay overtime, minimum wage violations, employee misclassification, illegal deductions in pay, working off the clock, or not being paid at all.
The survey, titled: “Working without pay: Wage theft in Zimbabwe”, carried out on 442 companies, showed that an estimated 80 000 workers have not received their wages and benefits on time.
Many of these workers have gone for more than 12 months without receiving their monthly wages, but are still expected to come to work without fail.
The report notes that the non-payment of wages is no longer a private-sector phenomenon, but has extended to the public sector, where many workers are also going without pay.
Both government and parastatal institutions have been complacent about dealing with this issue.
The report further notes that between 2011 and 2014, the number of workers in informal employment grew from 84,2 percent of the currently employed work force to 94,5 percent, translating to 5,9 million workers by 2014.
Among the approximately 350 000 workers in formal employment in 2014, are the more than 80 000 workers who did not receive wages and benefits on time.
“Wage non-payment affects an estimated 22 000-plus workers for urban councils, 12 000 in agriculture, and more than 7 500 each in the security sector, automotive industry and railways. Workers in several sectors are averaging more than 20 months without a pay cheque. Those affected include people who are still formally employed and required to go to work, as well as others who have been laid off without receiving their wages and benefits due to them under their contracts,” says the report.
Despite these violations, top managers continue to receive high salaries and generous benefits.
International standards, particularly the International Labour Organisation  Protection of Wages Convention, 1949 (No. 95), which has been ratified by 98 countries, mandate the regular payment of wages to workers and the prioritisation of such payments over other financial obligations of employers.
Although Zimbabwe has not yet ratified most of the relevant conventions, national law in Zimbabwe defines employers’ obligations for payment of regular wages in legal tender. But it has become common place for employers to take money that belongs to their employees and keeping it for themselves in clear violation of international labour standards, as well as national legislation on the employment of workers.
LEDRIZ’s 2015 report lays out the scope of wage theft in Zimbabwe, the responsibilities of the State under international standards and national legislation, and the failure of the State to address the impact on workers and their families. It also presents recommendations for action to address this problem.
According to the survey, ensuring compliance with international labour standards and curbing wage theft in Zimbabwe requires actions by both government and unions.
It recommends that existing laws should be enforced and union pressure increased to curb wage theft and hold employers accountable for their violation of worker rights.
In addition, the report suggests that the Zimbabwe Labour Act should be reviewed and strengthened to provide procedures for monitoring of and action on such cases in both the public and private sectors.
It further recommends that pay structures should be reviewed in the public sector, in particular, to set an example for the private sector.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary general, Japhet Moyo, said the number of workers going for months without wages is on the increase, contributing to the disintegration of the family, higher rates of poverty and greater numbers of the working poor.
“Even having a single meal a day is becoming an elusive achievement for most workers. It is our hope that through this report, the story of the exploited worker, whose rights are being violated in full sight of the government and by the government itself, can be told. The ZCTU will continue to fight for human rights and workers’ rights in Zimbabwe. In particular, the ZCTU will continue to insist that a living wage becomes a reality for all workers,” he said.     -By Alois Vinga
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