WORKERS in the tourism sector have cried foul over their short-term contracts saying they cannot claim benefits such as maternity leave or access loans and pensions.
By Ruth Ngwenya
The sector uses different types of employment terms provided by the Labour Act, which include contracts without limit of term, casual contracts, seasonal permanent contract (common in hunting) and fixed term contract.
Fixed term contracts have a specific period of employment, which range between three and six months, with the employer having the final decision on whether to renew or terminate the contract on expiry.
Victoria Falls based trade unionist Edward Dzapasi said the majority of employers in the tourism sector were not keen on signing permanent contracts with their workers.
“I have been working in this industry for the same company for more than five years now, but l am still on contract,” he said.
“Sometimes they give me a three-month contract and renew it to five or six months.
“It is the weakness of the Labour Act as it does not give duration as to how long an individual can work on these fixed term contracts and employers take advantage of that.”
“This is a disadvantage for us because we cannot get loans, bonus, pensions or medical aid,” he added
“Female workers cannot get maternity leave, which means that when a woman is working in the tourism sector, she does not get pregnant because if she does she risks having to apply afresh for her job.”
Dzapasi said they were now working on a proposal to amend the Labour Act to improve working conditions for workers in the tourism sector.
However, Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president Clement Mukwasi said employers preferred fixed term contracts because tourism was an unpredictable business as it was seasonal in nature.
“Factors that influence the coming in of tourists or them being unable to come are unpredictable for example if political situations change, even confirmed bookings are also cancelled,” Mukwasi said.
“What we do not want is a situation where you will have a permanent employee whose salary you cannot pay in the event of the market being low.
“So to safeguard the viability of companies we enter into fixed term contacts.”
He said companies had core-staff who were employed on a permanent basis.
“We do not impose these contracts on the employees, they willingly sign them,” Mukwasi said.
“Zimbabwe is not the only country in such a scenario, there are other countries like Germany that use similar contracts.”
But Mukwasi dismissed the claim that employees do not get bonuses.
“In the tourism sector we call bonuses incentives and they are not paid as a lump sum at the end of the year rather they are paid on monthly bases,” he said.
“Usually it is a percentage of the income that the company would have received for that month.”
“Employees in the tourism sector also benefit a lot from tips; the general habit by tourists is that 10% of their expenditure is donated as a tip.
“At the end of the day employees walk away with a lot of money which employers do not interfere with.
“We offer gratuity for employees on fixed term contracts instead of pensions.
“It is calculated almost in the same way that pensions are calculated.”