Tourism industry workers are demanding to be paid in hard cash as confidence in Zimbabwe’s banking industry continues to take a battering due to cash shortages.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
According to industry sources, employees in the tourism sector — one of the country’s biggest foreign currency earners — are locked in negotiations with their employers over the demands.
The workers argue that they are finding it increasingly difficult to access their earnings from banks, which are struggling to pay depositors on demand due to the liquidity crunch that has persisted for over a year.
“Employees are calling on employers to pay them in hard cash rather than through bank deposits,” a source said.
“Discussions are currently underway but no agreement has been reached.
“They are saying companies should use money in the bank for administrative costs.”
Workers are reportedly arguing that since companies were receiving cash when conducting business, it was also feasible for them to pay salaries in cash.
National Museums and Monuments Travel, Tourism and Game Parks Workers Union of Zimbabwe representative, Edward Dzapasi, said it was premature to comment on the issue as they were still consulting with their members.
“It’s a proposal that we are putting forward but currently we are doing our consultations with our members,” he said.
“We would like to have that [being paid in cash] because employees are suffering. They are getting $50 from the banks and [have to endure] unnecessary charges.”
Employers’ Association for Tourism and Safari Operators (Eatso) president Clement Mukwasi confirmed the developments but said as employers, they were opposed to payment of salaries in cash.
“Yes, the issue is under discussion through trade unions. However, that is not encouraged because it becomes difficult to account for year sales and profits,” Mukwasi said.
“Let’s try to find other ways, not this one. This will create room for fraud and theft.
“It will also create conflict between employee and employer. We want to continue with our traditional methods of payments. As such, we don’t encourage the issue of envelopes.”
Economic analysts said the proposal was unsustainable and would cripple the banking system.
“Where will the companies get the cash from? This will result in companies increasing prices to facilitate raising cash,” Economic analyst Reginald Shoko said.
“The employers must facilitate with their banks to arrange cash disbursements to employees on their pay day.”
Another economic analyst, Bongani Ngwenya, said the proposal was not convenient.
“That is going to be convenient for workers only, not for employers and the economy,” he said.
“But truly speaking, we cannot operate like that. Payments have to be done through banking systems for operational purposes and accountability.
“It’s something that can’t be accepted.”
If the proposal from the workers prevails, it might deal a heavy blow on Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)’s cashless transaction drive.
RBZ recently announced the reduction in electronic banking charges for the real time gross-settlement system (RTGS) now pegged at a maximum of $5, while automated teller machine (ATM) withdrawals charges have been slashed to not more than $2,50.
Electronic funds transfers now attract a minimum fee of 33 cents and a maximum of $2,10, while a point of sale (POS) transaction of up to $10 is now attracting a charge of 10 cents, and transactions above $10 will be charged 45 cents down from $2,50.
Zimbabwe is on the throes of a deep dollar shortage, forcing banks to put withdrawal limits at between $20 and $100 per day.
To ease the cash liquidity constraints in the long run, the RBZ has introduced bond notes, which are an export incentive under a $200 million facility reportedly guaranteed by an African Export-Import Bank facility.
The surrogate currency, which started circulating in the market last Monday through normal banking channels, is in small denominations of $2 and $5.