via Labour unrest looms: ZCTU January 11, 2014 By Christopher Mahove NewsDay
THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has warned that the government’s proposed move to introduce labour market flexibility and productivity-linked wages could trigger labour unrest in the country.
On Thursday, ZCTU acting secretary-general Gideon Shoko petitioned Public Service minister Nicholas Goche demanding that he convinces Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa to drop the proposal which was announced in the 2014 National Budget statement last month.
Shoko said the proposed move was tantamount to enslaving workers by seeking to “re-introduce colonial-era labour laws”.
Part of the protest letter reads: “Labour market flexibility is not a fair standard as it takes the employees back to the Master and Servant Act of 1901, which among others, is what our living and dead liberators fought to remove.”
Shoko implored Goche to impress upon Chinamasa that labour market flexibility was ultra vires the Constitution, which now provided for the right to fair and reasonable wages.
“Please inform Honourable Chinamasa that wages in this country are not imposed by anyone, but are agreed through collective bargaining. The problem with employers is that they by-pass the law and when ordered to correct, they cry foul and advocate for flexibility,” Shoko said.
He said linking wages to productivity did not work in a country where workers did not control the other means of production such as land, raw materials, markets, equipment, machinery and government policy.
The ZCTU leader warned that Chinamasa’s proposals were likely to trigger labour unrest.
“Europe is burning with protests as the ill-advised governments, succumbing to the dictates of the global financial powers, embraced labour market flexibility, failed to protect their people and now resort to austerity measures. Greece, Spain, New York, United Kingdom (and) Italy are engulfed in protests. Is this the path that Zanu PF intends to follow?
“During election, there were promises of employment creation, but how can we create employment while at the same time we lose such employment through labour market flexibility?” Shoko queried in his letter.
He said most company closures that have been recorded since 2012 were mainly caused by mismanagement, adding that Chinamasa’s views were informed by speculation from greedy employers who were failing to manage their companies.
“Press reports stated that in 2012, 149 companies filed for liquidation and according to Cecil Madondo of Tudor House Consultancy, who has managed 25 of the companies placed under judicial management, the liquidations were caused by gross mismanagement, lack of effective corporate governance and high level of indebtedness, which includes failure to pay the labourers,” he said.
Goche could not be reached to confirm receipt of the letter as his mobile phone went unanswered.
Part of the Budget statement at the centre of controversy reads: “It is, therefore, necessary, Mr Speaker Sir, that review of our labour laws also takes account of productivity. I am, therefore, calling upon my colleague, the Minister responsible for Labour, Hon. Goche, to seriously consider amendments to the Labour Act that relate work to productivity. Mr Speaker Sir, it is also necessary that we introduce in our Labour Laws, flexibility in the hiring of workers, as well as alignment of wage adjustments to labour productivity.939. In this regard, resuscitation of the Social Contract between Government, Labour and Business will be useful.”
Meanwhile the MDC-T yesterday said its MPs will vote against Chinamasa’s “anti-poor Budget”.
MDC-T shadow Public Service minister Paurina Mpariwa told journalists in Harare that MDC-T MPs will not endorse the Budget when it is eventually brought back to Parliament this month.
Mpariwa also castigated Goche’s threats to descend heavily on civil servants who have threatened to strike.
“We have noticed with serious concern unwarranted threats by Goche against civil servants who intend to engage in industrial action, and Goche’s intimidation is totally unacceptable and in variance with the country’s constitution,” said Mpariwa.
“Employees have a right to participate in collective job action and instead of making threats Goche should implement and honour his party promises in 2013 that they will award civil servants poverty datum line wages,” she said.