ZCTU to vote on strike action(01-02-07)

HARARE - Zimbabwe's umbrella trade union body, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), says wage talks in the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) have broken down and it will now seek to ballot its members on strike action when the General Council meets on Saturday.
With the MDC also mobiliz

ing member on possible strikes, ZCTU’s campaign has raised the prospect of civil unrest that analysts say is likely to further worsen President Robert Mugabe’s crisis of legitimacy.
“ZCTU views the TNF talks as having collapsed. The ZCTU is in the process of discussing a ballot on strike action and this issue will be top on our agenda when the General Council meets on Saturday. People are facing immense hardships,” ZCTU secretary general Wellington Chibebe said.
ZCTU is seeking a raise that will peg the minimum wage at par with the Poverty Datum Line (PDL), which currently stands at Z$350,000. The union is also seeking reviews in transport and housing allowances. It has staged temporary stoppages to press its demands.
Employers, including the government employment agency the Public Service Commission, are opposed to the setting of the PDL threshold presumably because it is unsustainable due to the harsh economic conditions prevailing in industry.
While admitting that salaries of workers in the private sector were deplorable, Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ) president Mike Bimha said the positions of the two sides were separated widely and employers needed time to consider their options.
ZCTU has been staging a series of warning strikes mainly in Harare and Bulawayo.
In September, police broke a ZCTU protest for better wages and HIV drugs and later ransacked it’s head office searching for alleged subversive material. Police also frisked the offices ostensibly to search for “evidence” linking union leaders with reported embezzlement of funds at Chester House, the ZCTU head office in central Harare. Arrested labour leaders were gruesomely tortured while in police custody.
Government has warned that it will not allow the labour body to cause chaos and make the country ungovernable through street protests, charging any planned campaign of civil disobedience will be ruthlessly quashed. But the ZCTU was likely to stage a stayaway, instead of “street jambanja,” according to sources close to the labour body.
Chibebe urged state security forces to respect the right of citizens to express themselves freely.
“Everyone including the security agents are facing difficulties in paying school fees, transport costs, rent and rates which are pegged at astronomical levels in addition to the soaring prices of basic commodities,” Chibebe said. “I appeal to the police and army officials to restrain from intimidating, harassing and arresting fellow workers during demonstrations for better pay.”
The government recently awarded a 300 percent salary increase to civil servants but employees still take home less than $100,000 a month.
Government says negotiations on the prices and incomes stabilization protocol are still being pursued. Labour minister Nicholas Goche said the discussions had reached “an advanced stage” but the remedy to the challenges facing labour rested on increased production.

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