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Zimbabwean unions campaign against Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy

2 September, 2021Seven IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Zimbabwe are embarking on a campaign to encourage workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19 amid hesitancy caused by anti-vaccination messages on social media and other platforms.

The unions announced their plans during an online health and safety meeting on 20 August. Several topics and questions were discussed during the meeting, including whether it is lawful for the employer to ask workers to produce vaccination certificates or negative Covid-19 test results taken in the last 24 hours as a condition for reporting for work. Health and safety rights that workers enjoyed during a global pandemic were discussed with reference to Zimbabwean labour laws and international labour standards.

The unions raised the issues as a response to a recent trend in which employers in the country were demanding vaccination cards, or negative Covid-19 test results when workers reported for work. This began after the government announcement that although workers will not be forced to vaccinate, those who chose not to will not be offered jobs, will be banned from commuting on public buses, and be excluded from Covid-19 benefits. However, unions say the employers must engage workers through social dialogue platforms and consult with unions to address vaccine hesitancy before issuing the notices.

As a response to the employers’ notices, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has gone to court to challenge actions by state-owned telecommunications company TelOne which wrote to workers informing them that the unvaccinated would no longer receive Covid-19 allowances and be required to take immediate leave.

“Whilst workers have mixed emotions on Covid-19 vaccination, employers on the other hand must ensure the health and safety and well-being of workers. However, it seems information gaps are negatively impacting on the uptake of vaccines but slowly some workers are beginning to see the benefits after vaccination. As unions we are emphasizing that workers should be given enough information to convince them to agree to vaccination,”

says Eustace Chidhindi, the affiliates' occupational health and safety coordinator.

“It has been proven that vaccines can stop severe disease and death when one becomes infected with the coronavirus and encourage Zimbabwean workers to get vaccinated. Further, we urge workplace cooperation between unions and employers, and social dialogue on Covid-19 prevention and workers health and safety,”

says Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa.

According to the Ministry of Health and Childcare, the country has procured 13 million vaccines and vaccinated 2,582,705 people (single dose) and 1,636,498 (double dose) using mainly the Sinopharm vaccine from China. Current cumulative confirmed positive cases on 31 August were 124,773 with 4,419 deaths and 113,057 recoveries. The ministry says to reach population immunity 10 million people must be vaccinated.

IndustriALL affiliates in Zimbabwe are National Union of Metal and Allied Industries of Zimbabwe (NUMAIZ), National Union of the Clothing Industry (NUCI), the Zimbabwe Chemical, Plastics and Allied Workers Union (ZCPAWU), Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union (ZDAMWU), Zimbabwe Energy Workers Union (ZEWU), Zimbabwe Leather, Shoe and Allied Workers Union (ZLSAWU), and the Zimbabwe Textile Workers Union (ZTWU).