By Sunday Oyinloye
As the world marks Workers Day, opposition leader in Zimbabwe, Hon. Nelson Chamisa has challenged the President Emmerson Mnangagwa -led administration to pay “living and decent wages” to the workers, even as he said workers’ sweat should not dry before they are given living wages.
Chamisa who is the leader of Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) salutes the workers for their resilience and endurance stressing that they have been giving their sweat and blood to build Zimbabwe even under difficult and times.
The opposition leader who spoke with Green Savannah Diplomatic Cable said: “This day, we remember that everything won was through the struggle and sacrifice of working citizens. Workers are the backbone of any nation, being the turbines of history and architects of any society.
The historic struggle and militant tradition of the labor movement in Zimbabwe have won us many victories that we still enjoy up to this day. Remember Burombo, Masotsha Ndlovu ,Jamela , Mzingeli, Nkomo, Sibanda, Tsvangirai, Matombo, Nkiwane,Chibebe and Mutasa.
“Now more than ever, policymakers and employers in Zimbabwe need to heed workers’ calls for a living and decent wage, restore workers dignity and ensure that workers get a fair share in the wealth and gains they help to create.
“Workers are suffering. Transport is a nightmare. Wages are meager. Salaries are inadequate. Prices are roaring. The recent statistics from Zimstat shows that annual inflation as of April 2022 has surged to 96.6% while authorities have not given corresponding salary increase”
“Current ‘real market’ exchange rate is ZWL 400 to US$1 which effectively means that workers’ salaries are seriously eroded by both inflation and exchange spiral but authorities are unwilling to give workers a correct living wage’
He explained further that employers’ capacity to pay real wages to workers has been constrained by draconian government policies which inter alia include excessive distortions and corruption and punitive exchange rate regimes and excessive taxes.
According to him, the punitive economic environment has been so toxic to the people in the informal sector who have been trying to make ends meet in the face of high unemployment rate which is above 90%, adding that workers cannot afford to buy a loaf of bread daily and” teachers can’t send their kids to standard boarding school”
He regretted that while the opposition has numerously advised and continue to advise those authorities to give workers living and decent wage, “the call falls on deaf ears, shut minds and stony hearts.”
Chamisa says if the CCC wins the 2023 general elections, the least paid civil servant will earn US$540 per month.
He made other promises which include: conducive environment to foster business growth and attract both domestic and foreign investment -the key levers of job creation, massive reforms of the state owned enterprises with a view to place them as key enablers and actors of economic transformation and employment creation, as we as strengthening of the TNF so that it becomes a serious vehicle for negotiations for the government, employers and employees.
Others are consummation of a social contract and massive labour law reforms. Domestication of ILO conventions that affect workers’ conditions, cessation of abuse of workers by exploitative local and foreign employer, and protect workers against any form of violence and violations.
His words: “We are losing a lot of workers through occupational deaths, sickness, diseases, and injuries. We will seek to drastically reduce this by ratifying and domesticating Convention 187 in order to promote a safe and healthy working environment.
“We have looked at the 2009 ILO Commission Of Inquiry, and our government will fully implement all the recommendations.
“Entrench workers’ rights in the constitution, including the right to demonstrate, freedom of association, collective bargaining and decent working conditions including the public sector workers.
“Domestic Workers are workers. Our government will speedily ratify and domesticate Convention 189 to protect domestic workers and promote decent work for this important but abused group of workers.
“We looked at both the proposed Labour Amendment Bill and Health Services Amendment Bill. They all fall short and take away workers freedoms and rights. Our Government will pursue a TNF driven Labour Law reform based on ILO Conventions and the Constitution. All laws must be aligned to the Constitution
“A worker is a maker. Let’s make Zimbabwe great. Workers’ day is for all workers. Let us all work for change in Zimbabwe, register to vote or encourage another to register to vote. Let’s work to build our country great –country”
He disclosed that the Key to providing a living wage, restoring workers’ dignity and “getting rid of the old, rotten and parasitic system sucking life out of workers” is electing a Citizens government that puts workers’ welfare first and prioritize dignity at the heart of governance and all policy decisions.
It would be recalled that in March 2022 by-elections, CCC won 19 out of the 28 seats that were on offer; 67,9% or more than two thirds majority of the available seats. The party also won 75/120 of all the contested seats in local authorities.