By Judith Sibanda
Victoria Falls, January 20, 2016 – Tourism players have started cutting salaries of workers by as much as 50 percent citing depressed revenues due to low tourist arrivals.
The salary cuts that the Employers’ Association for Tourism and Safari Operators (EATSO) says are likely to be temporary, have been criticised by workers in Victoria Falls who argue their earnings were already too low to be adjusted downwards.
EATSO president Clement Mukwasi said business had been depressed since last year, hence the decision to trim salaries and ensure businesses survived.
He said although Victoria Falls was the most affected, the trend was the same in most of the country’s resort areas where the number of holiday makers was low throughout 2015.
“The busy season that is December last year saw a large number of tourists visiting (Victoria Falls) but that was only for a few days,” Mukwasi said.
“It was mainly people that came for the Zanu PF congress and (the Victoria Falls) carnival, but before then we did not have any numbers to talk about.
“We did not see even the peak of tourist arrivals nor the Christian holiday where arrivals go up around April.”
He said tourism players would have to reduce costs while they waited for tourist arrivals to improve.
“So for us to be able to move to that hopeful period, we need to sustain ourselves by coming into mutual agreements between companies and individuals who are working in the tourism sector and we cut down salaries,” he said.
“We are looking at a cut of not more than 50% but employees will have to work in shifts especially during peak periods.
“As we speak, some companies have already started implementing the move in Victoria Falls.”
Before the move, the lowest paid employee in the tourism sector was earning $189 per month including an $84 allowance paid to all non-managerial staff.
Edmore Dzapasi, who works for a tourism establishment in Victoria Falls, said employers were being insincere when they claimed that the salary cuts were being necessitated by low business volumes.
“We know that each time we go towards salary negotiations, employers try to present a gloomy picture of the industry to try and force salary cuts,” he said.
“I think that is inhumane because they know that the salaries that they are giving us are not adequate.
“The housing allowances that we get are not enough to even pay rentals for one room.”
Dzapasi said what made the salary cuts more painful was the fact that workers in the sector did not get bonuses last December.
“We insist that they should be able to adjust our salaries upwards, including our housing and transport allowances,” he added.
His sentiments were echoed by Moses Mlotshwa, another employee, who said claims of a depressed business situation in Victoria Falls were not true.
“Business is not as bad as they claim because we are actually seeing new investment in Victoria Falls,” he said.
However, Mukwasi insisted the salary cuts were only proposed in an effort to save businesses from collapse.
“As employers we received information from across the country that the figures indicate that tourist arrivals have gone down very significantly,” he said.
“We have realised that salaries that are being paid are no longer sustainable.
“If we are to maintain the jobs that are in the industry and if we are going to remain afloat throughout this off peak season, we need to reduce salaries.”
Mukwasi said the lean season ends in March and tourist arrivals were likely to go up in April.
“This is not only affecting Victoria falls but the whole country because we are a US dollar based economy and South Africans for example find it difficult to come to Zimbabwe,” he said.
Mukwasi said as a survival method, tourism players were revising their pricing models to ensure they served different markets.