29 04 2007

Diplomacy: the art of having a working relationship with someone you don’t like (thanks to my ex-diplomat friend Terry for that one).

I have had a crash course in diplomacy this last week; dealing with a workers’ union representative. He was polite enough I suppose but I really don’t see why I had to show him how I worked out the new wages for my staff and how I worked out the back-pay (a uniquely Zimbabwean concept) for the last 6 months. Actually, that’s not quite true, I co-operated because it was the quickest way to get rid of him.  It seems that the government changed the definition of what horticulture is in January with the result that my labourers suddenly got a 100% increase as they were no longer employed under the definition of general agriculture. OK, so it’s bit complicated but just part of the daily hassle of employing in Zimbabwe. I had already been paying well over the thoroughly unrealistic wage scale for general agriculture so it did not work out to be as much as it could but I could never have got anyone to work for the official rate. So this representative of the Zimbabwe Horticulture and Allied Workers Union pitches up and promising my staff major increases in wages signs them all across from the officially registered General Agriculture Producers and Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ). ZHAWU is not a legally registered union with the Ministry of Labour so I am under no obligation to collect union dues (seriously, we have to collect the dues of registered unions) but they are free to recruit members. So to cut the story to a manageable length, I dealt with a loud voiced, in-your-face  “official” who reeked of old cigarettes for two days. I even had to do the calculations for him. Everything was in order and no-one was cheated and at the end of it he did actually thank me for my co-operation but it did take a lot of self control to ride it through without cracking and telling him to “go away”.  I suppose other countries have the same issues but I’d like to think that the union officials are a little more sophisticated.



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