Salary disparities in Zimbabwe continue to widen with many top executives now raking in monthly incomes of up to US$26 000 while the least paid formally employed shopfloor worker takes home US$250.

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While information at hand shows that no executive is officially being paid anywhere near the US$380 000 that axed Premier Services Medical Aid Society group chief executive Dr Cuthbert Dube took home every month, the rich are getting richer while lower level workers have to make do with salaries below the poverty datum line.

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A survey by Industrial Psychology Consultants – a Harare-based human resources firm – reveals that most CEO salaries range between US$16 000 and US$20 000. Some top honchos get more than US$26 000 in salaries and allowances every months.

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Due to the confidentiality of the matter, the survey does not name the executives and the companies that pay them such astronomical figures while at the same time giving shop floor workers US$250 per month.

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However, a labour dispute at the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe has given rise to claims that the CEO there, Mr Charles Chikaura, takes home US$35 000 even as that State enterprise seeks to retrench nearly half its workforce – most of them from the lower grades. (See page B1.)

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The Industrial Psychology Consultants survey says managers are pocketing between US$10 000 and US$14 000 monthly, while middle managers across all sectors are taking home around US$4 000. Comparatively, the average earnings of ordinary workers range between US$250 and US$280, but the figures show a marked decline when one factors in the agriculture sector, where the lowest paid earn between US$65 and US$70 per month.

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The banking and telecommunications sectors pay their ordinary employees salaries of around U$500.

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IPC managing consultant Mr Memory Nguwi told The Sunday Mail that the widening salary gap was attributable to results-based management, which companies are increasingly adopting.

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“The majority of employees earn less because their salaries are regulated by the national employment council (for their sector). Even if the organisation wants to increase the salaries for them, they will be penalised by the NEC,” he said.

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“The top executives are highly paid because they do most of the problem-solving for the organisation and they will be more educated. As a result, organisations invest in them because they are not easily replaceable.

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“However, Low incomes among blue collar workers affect morale, and effectively results in slowed company productivity and profits. Wide salary gaps create outright resentment for top managers and could lead to strikes.”

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Mr Nguwi advocated a “back to basics” model to address salary disputes in an environment of limited production and liquidity.

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“Companies must prioritise productivity, then satisfy the workers’ needs and not the other way around. Right now, some companies that are still open are only in survival mode,” he said.

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Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary-general Mr Japhet Moyo said workers were naturally displeased with the salary disparities.

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“We are own enemies because whilst we say we don’t have money to invest, to pay workers or recapitalise, we continue to pay our executives huge salaries and allowances at the expense of our economy.

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“One of the ways we can resuscitate the economy is by looking at various companies’ salary structures, especially the executives’ salaries and perks. Companies should forgo these salaries and use them for re-capitalisation, to buy new equipment and minimise retrenchments. This will go a long way in reviving the economy.”

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Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe executive director Mr John Mufukare, however, dismissed the figures in the IPC survey saying they were at odds with the situation on the ground.

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“I think those figures are too generalised. They do not really reflect what is happening in the workplace. In the private sector, there are a few who earn US$15 000. I think in order to come up with more accurate figures, it is better to look at specific sectors rather than from a holistic point of view.”

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And while the formally employed sing the blues, the informal sector is growing and the World Bank estimates that those engaged in such activities are holding onto US$7 billion.

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This has prompted Government to both promote the sector as well as seek to formalise it so that tax revenues can be accrued therefrom.