Union slams farmers paying starvation wages

The General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union is lamenting poor wages for farmers with some receiving paltry wages of $20 per month.

“The monthly wages of farm labourers are a pittance if measured against the country’s poverty datum line of $504 for a family of six,” said the union’s secretary general Gift Muti.

“Last year we agreed with farm organisations that horticulture workers would be paid $84 and general workers $55. But employers continue to pay below subsistence wages that barely cover basic necessities.”

Shadreck Nyathi, a 35-year-old farm worker at a rich horticulture estate in Marondera, said he earned $25 a month, which he shared with his four children.

Nyathi looks weary and old with his palms showing scars of years of work. His employer cannot even afford to supply him with uniforms – claiming the farm cannot afford it.

The vicious cycle for him continues as now, his children have dropped out of school to help support the family. Like him they may be trapped in farm life for years to come.

“Low wages affects workers’ morale and farm output,” said Muti. “Such low wages are not in the interests of the agricultural sector. Employers should improve the welfare of their workers in order to improve production.”

Employers argue that the sector is underperforming, and they cannot afford to pay the agreed wages.

Muti urged “new” farmers to be serious. Some pay only $20 a month as wages, which he described as a pittance. Many are politicians and civil servants, who hardly visit the farms and do not utilise them fully. Research by GAPWUZ among its 200 000-strong membership shows many are abused by their employers – who include serving members of the army, police and war veterans.

Muti said that the situation is worsened by the fact that most of the farm workers are from Malawi and Mozambique and do not have national registration documents. This makes it difficult to take up their cases of abuses.

But Zimbabwe Farmers Union spokesperson Tinashe Kairezi said his members understood the plight of farm workers. “It is outrageous that some farm owners are paying workers as little as $50 or even lower. We ask for government’s intervention in that area,” said Kairezi.

The President of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union, Donald Khumalo, said he was not aware of members who were paying low wages.

Post published in: News

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