DR Mbita Chitala says it is unwise and unlawful for any one party to bulldoze its opinion on the minimum wage as it may raise unnecessary conflict and instability in the country.
Commenting on the recently-announced minimum wage by the government, Dr Chitala, who is Zambia Research Foundation (ZRF) executive director, said the coming up with the minimum wage required consultation with various stakeholders so as to ensure that all opinions are considered on the issue.
"The process requires consultation between the unions, employers and the state," he said in an interview.
The government over a week ago announced the revision of minimum wages for general workers, with domestic employees and shopkeepers' wages increased to K522,000 and K1.1 million per month, respectively, among other changes
Dr Chitala said the new minimum wage in its present form would be resented by employers, who would also find other ways of avoiding it such as reverting to casualisation or reducing their labour force.
"The clever approach is to introduce the measures progressively over time and use the minimum wage regulation as a threshold to morally persuade employers to practice," he said.
Dr Chitala said this would also help workers to bargain meaningfully.
He said it was wrong for authorities to scare employers that if they did not adhere to the policy announcement, they would face prosecution.
"The policy announcement is progressive but it is wrong to criminalise it," said Dr Chitala.
The Zambia Federation of Employers (ZFE) has since asked for a review of the minimum wage which they say should be done through a tripartite consultative labour council consisting the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), ZFE and the Ministry of Labour.
In its grounds of applications of appeal to labour minister Fackson Shamenda, ZFE submitted that the minister violated part of section 3 (1) of the minimum wages and conditions of employment Act, CAP 276 of the Laws of Zambia by extending coverage of the said minimum wages of employment to sectors where wages are determined through a process of collective bargaining without consulting trade unions.
But Shamenda has insisted that the new minimum wage is meant to protect many Zambians who do not have representation through unions for their lives to be uplifted.
"What we are saying is that let us grow the economy and uplift the lives of the poor people, you don't uplift the lives of others by making somebody also get into the poverty brackets, we are not talking about reducing the salaries of members of parliament . The minimum wage is meant to protect the vulnerable who have no voice, it has nothing to do with trade unions," said Shamenda during a radio programme on Livingstone's Zambezi FM last Thursday.
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