The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade unions (ZCTU), the national centre to which IndustriALL Global Union affiliates belong, says President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration “met everyone” for consultations, but snubbed labour during its first 100 days in office.
As no attempts were made to meet workers or trade unions – whether in the formal or informal sectors – the federation says this clearly shows that there is no commitment to improve conditions for Zimbabwean workers. The ZCTU says the government is bent on pursuing neo-liberal austerity and free market policies ignoring workers’ rights.
Retrenchments and precarious working conditions are common in Zimbabwe. Benefits including pensions were wiped out during the hyperinflation period which peaked in 2008, and unemployment is estimated at over 90 per cent. With youth unemployment high, chances of those under the age of 35 getting jobs are slim.
The few workers with jobs are either partly paid or not paid on time. The picket by 300 women demanding the payment of their spouses’ wages at the majority state-owned Hwange Colliery Company, which began on 27 January, illustrates the gravity of the situation. The workers’ wages back date to five years. Intent on evicting the women who had camped at the company premises for a month, but not addressing their grievances, Hwange Colliery even took the matter to the High Court which dismissed the case. The labour minister, Petronella Kagonye, is currently visiting the company to resolve the dispute.
Furthermore, it is difficult for the employed workers to withdraw their meagre earnings because of cash shortages. So, the workers spend long hours in queues only to be given small amounts that are not even enough for their needs.
Says Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa:
Whilst we welcome statements on economic recovery plans involving businesses and investors, this cannot be done at the exclusion of workers and trade unions who are key stakeholders. The role that workers play in economic development is critical and should not be undermined by the Government of Zimbabwe.
The IndustriALL affiliates in Zimbabwe who belong to the ZCTU are the National Engineering Workers Union, National Mine workers Union of Zimbabwe, National Union of Clothing Industries, the National Union of Metal and Allied Industries in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Chemicals and Plastics and Allied Workers Union, and the Zimbabwe Textile Workers Union.
Mnangagwa took over government in November 2017, following a military intervention that triggered events that ousted former president Robert Mugabe in power for 37 years since independence from British colonial rule in 1980.