Workers in the hospitality industry are demanding that their salaries be paid in foreign currency, saying their employers have the capacity to do so as most of their transactions are in foreign currency.
The call by workers in the sector comes at a time many businesses are demanding payment in foreign currency for some of their commodities and services.
Farai Chitsinde, the National Union of Tourism, Wildlife, Leisure, and Allied Workers general secretary told NewsDay they would soon embark on an offensive aimed at pushing their employers to make foreign currency-based salary payments.
“It is undoubted and an open secret that our sector is one of the top foreign currency earners in the country. We are, therefore, of the view that our employers are short changing our members by paying them salaries in the local RTGS currency. As a union, we believe we now have to intervene and take corrective measures to this problem,” Chitsinde said.
Chitsinde said the union was also infuriated as employers in the hospitality industry appeared unappreciative of the sacrifices workers were putting into their work, given the dangers they encountered daily.
“The workers face many challenges. Some of them are protecting wild animals which can attack the person who is supposed to protect them at any minute. Workers are exposed to poachers who, in most instances, shoot to kill when cornered by the game rangers. This is how exposed some of our members are, yet the employers do not appreciate them,” Chitsinde said.
“We have instances where scouts have been hurt, and in some instances killed as they try and protect their employers’ business interests. These guys are paid a measly US$150 or $220 RTGS dollars.”
He added: “But we are saying these people are working for institutions or companies that earn foreign currency in their businesses. The hunts that are conducted in some of these cases generate foreign currency as foreign hunters do not pay in our local currency. So, there is need for the employers to put this into perspective and pay what is just to their dedicated workers.”
Employers Association of Tourism Operators president Clement Mukwasi said there was need for stakeholders in the tourism and hospitality sectors to dialogue on the way forward.
“As far as we are concerned as employers, that matter has not been brought to the negotiation table for discussion. We will be ready to discuss it as and when it is presented for discussion,” he said.
“It is not all of our members who earn foreign currency from their businesses. Some, for instance in Victoria Falls, do take local RTGS dollars, given that they host domestic tourists. So, in essence, there is need for wide consultation, which we are going to do, on whether it is feasible to meet the demands of the union.”
Mukwasi also said: “We will also seek guidance on the lawfulness of the conduct where we pay in forex, given that there is a statute in place in the form of Statutory Instrument 33 of 2019, which stipulates how we have to operate when it comes to payment of salaries.”
The tourism sector is divided into three. The first sector deals mainly with hotel and lodge employees, while the second sector is for those in the conservation, safari and wildlife operations.
The third sector deals with workers employed by companies involved in conservation and agriculture.
Last year, tourism industry employers awarded workers a 5% basic salary increment, which saw the lowest paid employee earning $128 per month, excluding allowances.