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Living vs Fair Wage: Which one Does the Law Protect Part 1

Labour Act (Chapter 28:01) Section 6 (1) (a) provides that “No employer shall pay any employee a wage which is lower than that to a fair la...

Labour Act (Chapter 28:01) Section 6 (1) (a) provides that “No employer shall pay any employee a wage which is lower than that to a fair labour specified for such employee by law or by agreement made under this Act”.

Section 6 (2) further provides that “ Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level seven or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or to both such fine and such imprisonment”.

Thus the enabling labour legislation clearly provides employees with a right to be paid a ‘fair wage’. However, there is no definition of the term ‘fair labour’ but inferences may be drawn from the fact that the Act goes on to specify that such a wage should be specified by law or by agreement. 

In essence, there are two sectorial branches of labour in Zimbabwe namely the Public sector and the Private Sector. How the wages for these two sectors are determined, revised and negotiated are fully discussed below. 
Living Versus fair Wage 

Section 65(1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides “Every person has the right to fair and safe labour practices and standards and to be paid a fair and reasonable wage”. Again, the Constitution does not define what a fair and reasonable wage is. 

This lack of precision in the legislation has left the poor employees at the mercy of the employers who in light of the prevailing high unemployment rate and economic meltdown, has enjoyed labour exploitation to the fullest. 

The law in Zimbabwe only protects the employee’s right to a fair wage and not a living wage. This paper seeks to uphold the worker’s rights by advocating for a legislation and system that guarantees workers entitlement to a living wage as opposed to a fair minimum wage.

What are wages and why are these important?
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 95, wages are "remuneration or earnings, however designated or calculated, payable in virtue of a written or unwritten contract of employment by an employer to an employed person for work done or to be done or for services rendered or to be rendered". 

These wages are to be expressed in terms of money and are fixed by mutual agreement or by national laws or regulations. Wages are the major focus of collective bargaining between employers and employees. Similarly wages, sometimes, lead to conflict between the two sides. 

Wages can be a source of deprivation and discrimination especially when non-payment of wages leads to unpleasant results like labour bondage or forced labour. Similarly, non-payment of due wages in time exposes workers to financial problems.

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