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Zimbabwean unions want an end to poverty, corruption and oppression

3 May, 2023During May Day celebrations trade unions, in Zimbabwe, called for living wages amidst a cost-of-living crisis characterised by high inflation of 75.2 per cent, increasing poverty levels, and high unemployment. 

According to the country’s statistical agency Zimstats most workers earning less than US$62 per month and trade unions are concerned that most workers and their families are living in poverty. Unions say workers need at least $500 to afford basics like food, transport, and housing.

The theme of the celebration, with thousands of workers in attendance, was: “Workers demand an inclusive Zimbabwe free from poverty, corruption, and oppression.” 

The May Day theme relates to the country’s adverse mentions in the Application of International Labour Standards 2023 Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations. Zimbabwe has been asked to explain, after reports were made by the ITUC and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions on violating Convention 87 and Convention 98. Additionally, the government of Zimbabwe must respond to serious allegations of violations of trade union rights and civil liberties. These include anti-union discrimination and proposed labour law amendment bills that curtail workers’ rights. 

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Florence Taruvinga says,

“the government must include trade unions in their processes through social dialogue, so that workers are given the opportunity to defend their interests. Further, we would like investors especially Chinese employers to respect workers and stop humiliating them through beatings.” 

She added that the Zimbabwean workplace has changed and is largely informal, and this calls for unity between the formal and informal workers.

Joseph Tanyanyiwa, chairperson of the IndustriALL Zimbabwe national coordinating council said:

“This year’s celebrations are taking place when workers are struggling to put food on the table. As unions we are campaigning for minimum wages of US$150 across all sectors and calling on employers to pay in US dollars as the value of the local currency continues to fall. We have been demanding the dollarisation of wages in our tripartite negotiating forums.”

IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub-Saharan Africa, Paule France Ndessomin said

“we support union campaigns for living wages and urge the government to respect workers’ rights according to the national labour laws and international standards. Instead of denying workers’ rights, the government must play its role as a key stakeholder that facilitates social dialogue.”

The celebrations were organized by the ZCTU to which IndustriALL Global Union affiliated unions also belong. The affiliates organise in chemicals, garment and textiles, metal industries, plastics, and other sectors, and are the National Union of Metal and Allied Workers of Zimbabwe, the National Union of the Clothing Industry, the Zimbabwe Chemicals, Plastics and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe, and the Zimbabwe Textile Workers Union.

Countries from across the world including Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, France, Germany, Thailand, Switzerland, Turkey and Georgia celebrated May Day.