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Zimbabwe Farm Workers Union Seeks Arbitration Of Wage Dispute

The General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe said Friday that it will seek arbitration in its dispute with employers who are offering only a 100 percent increase in wages to the union’s 200,000 extremely low-paid members.

Most farm laborers earn just Z$8,000 a month, US$32 at the official exchange rate of Z$250 to the American dollar, but only about US$1.15 at the prevailing parallel market exchange rate which in recent days has tumbled to Z$7,000 to the greenback.

The wage paid farm laborers does not even represent 2% of the Z$566,000 that the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe says a family of six needs each month to purchase food and other essentials of life, representing the country's "poverty datum line."

Haggling over farm wages has dragged on for three months. Workers want Z$70,000 a month, which employers, mostly the so-called new farmers allocated property under the country's land redistribution program since 2000, say they cannot afford.

General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union General Secretary Gertrude Hambira told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the union has written to the National Employment Council in a first step towards arbitration.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...