In other parts of the world, International Workers’ Day is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers.
In Zimbabwe, however, it is disheartening to note that setbacks and challenges continue to outweigh the victories and progress that workers have achieved in the 34 years of Zimbabwe’s independence as the government and employers in private enterprise have turned their backs on the working people.
It is dismaying that in recent months thousands of Zimbabwean workers have been left without jobs as a result of forced retrenchments occasioned by company closures due to the difficult economic operating environment.
Workers in the private and public sector continue to earn slave wages that do not allow them and their families to live above the poverty datum line, while unemployment and inequality is increasing at a shocking pace.
Those in control of the levers of state power pledged to create 2 million jobs. These remain hollow and shallow platitudes as we witness the stark reality of a multitude of commercial enterprises downsizing operations and employment levels, while other companies have completely shut down.
In some instances workers in both the public and private sector have had to endure slashed salaries while corporate greed is running unchecked at the expense of the suffering workers. It is unacceptable that no concerted action has been taken to bring an end to the impunity for corrupt activities by big bosses who continue to feast while their workers go for months without decent pay and sub-standard working conditions.
Some discouraged work seekers have lost hope of securing any form of employment and are increasingly turning to informal trading, which itself is under threat from government-enforced demolitions of structures, evictions from trading places and threats to forcibly tax this informal workforce.
This year’s International Workers’ Day is being marked after an important achievement of a new Constitution of Zimbabwe, which includes protection of labour rights, freedom to demonstrate and petition and the right to collective job action and collective bargaining. This is an encouraging starting point for the advancement of the decent work agenda in Zimbabwe as spearheaded by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. More still needs to be done, however, with several drawbacks in the governance charter, and a lack of political will to implement the positive protective provisions relating to the rights of workers.
ZLHR commits itself to the comradely struggle to press the government to further refine and protect fundamental workers’ rights, ensure effective implementation of rights already guaranteed, and in this regard to immediately align all labour laws with the new Constitution. We further call on the executive and legislative arms of government to fast-track legislation that will effectively deal with the scourge of corruption, including corporate greed, particularly in the public sector.
It is imperative that the government of Zimbabwe does more to ensure that workers’ rights are protected and realised.
ZLHR hopes that this year’s commemoration of the International Workers’ Day will give strength to Zimbabwean workers to continue the struggle for a better Zimbabwe and world.Post published in: Politics