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Unions in Zimbabwe fight for decent work

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20 October, 2011Miriam Chipunza, NEWU, Zimbabwe, talks about her union's participation in the global action of the World Day of Decent Work and the importance of decent wages for workers in Zimbabwe.

Miriam Chipunza, 28, joined the IMF Zimbabwe affiliate National Engineering Workers Union (NEWU) in April 2009 as an executive assistant to the General Secretary. She is responsible for organizing conferences and meetings and leads the communication work in her union. Miriam was one of participants of the regional communicators' forum for Central and South Africa organized by the IMF in Kenya in May 2011. Since then she has been preparing updates on the situation in her union and country. Some of her stories are published on the IMF regional webpage.

Miriam describes the recent rally organized by her union together with the national centre Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) on the occasion of the World Day of Decent Work (WDDW) protest action and explains why the issue of decent work is so important for her union and the members.

NEWU has participated in every WDDW action since it was launched by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) for the first time in 2008. This year a rally was organized in Harare and the theme of the action was "Save Our Rights, Save Our Economy and Our Jobs".

Miriam says that this action is extremely important because it concerns almost all workers in the country. "Nowadays the situation in Zimbabwe is that workers get only the basics to survive, their employers do not want to pay decent wages even if they can", explains Chipunza.

In fact, most workers live below the poverty line in Zimbabwe not earning enough to reach the Poverty Datum Line (PDL) in 2011 defined for a family of six people at the level of US$ 505 per month; in some cases workers are paid atrociously small wages of US$ 40 per month.

At the rally, speakers raised issues of concern to Zimbabwean workers, namely unemployment, poor quality and unproductive jobs, unsafe work, insecure income, denial of rights and inadequate social protection and solidarity in the face of disability and old age.

Also, the ZCTU called for solidarity support to the Zimbabwe Domestic Allied Workers' Union (ZDAWU), which for almost four years has not been able to conclude a collective bargaining agreement on wages, and pledged to do everything possible to make Zimbabwe ratify the Domestic Workers' Convention 189 which was adopted at the International Labour Conference in June 2011.

Miriam says that the rally enjoyed a great success with participants coming both from trade unions and local communities, the event served a good example of unity in the struggle for decent work for all. "NEWU members are highly involved in ZCTU activities and mostly constitute about 50 per cent of total attendance in such activities", she adds.

At the global level, the ITUC identified precarious work as this year's primary focus of WDDW actions. The issue of precarious work remains high on the agenda for unions across the globe for more on this issue, read in the feature on social protection for precarious workers, pages 9-13.