THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has bemoaned a tough 2019, describing the entire 12 months as ‘annus horriblis’ (Latin word meaning very tough) due to a number of inconsistent government policies which led to company closures and erosion of incomes.
In a festive season statement signed by its secretary general, Japhet Moyo, ZCTU said on Friday that the year has been disastrous for the country’s working class.
‘It is a year workers would want to forget quickly and a year that can be best described as ‘annus horribilis’. The much-anticipated improvement to the plight of the working people did not materialise.
‘Working people of Zimbabwe have been confronted with, among others: poverty, slavery wages that have failed to match the poverty datum line of $5,000, shocking price increases and inflation levels topping 500 per cent, high income tax policies that is punitive to the workers,’ said Moyo.
The ZCTU secretary said a barrage of anti-worker policies by the government added to a health delivery system that has failed to recover from collapse as Zimbabweans continue to die of treatable diseases.
‘A collapsed education system that has been characterised by chaos and constant threats of industrial action from teachers over low salaries; erratic supply of water and electricity that has decimated industrial production and high unemployment and underemployment levels did not make the situation better,’ he said.
Moyo bemoaned the increased informalisation of the economy, institutional collapse, decay and corruption, massive poverty afflicting in excess of 80% of the population, state threats, arrests, detention and abduction of trade unionists as well as civic leaders by a paranoid administration, state sponsored shootings and killings on civilians for protesting against the high cost of living.
He said the political and economic situation has not been kind and urged citizens to take advantage of the current Christmas holiday to craft solutions to improve their future and brace for a tougher fight ahead against economic problems.
‘Let us take this Christmas and New Year break not to ponder on what could have been, but to ponder on what to do about it in order to improve our lives.
‘The month of January 2020 should be a decisive month. Workers should come back prepared to fight against economic haemorrhage and tyranny’ said Moyo.
Senior Zimbabwean doctors joined hundreds of junior colleagues in a mass walkout this week, warning of a ‘silent genocide’ caused by dire conditions in hospitals.
The public sector doctors demanded the reinstatement of 440 junior colleagues, who were fired after downing tools in a pay dispute in September. It was unclear how many senior doctors had gone on strike.
A severe economic downturn has forced inflation to triple digits in Zimbabwe but salaries have failed to keep pace with price hikes, pushing many services beyond the reach of most people.
Doctors in the public health system say the value of their pay shrank more than 15-fold in the past year – a legacy of economic mismanagement under ex-president Robert Mugabe.
Many government workers – junior doctors among them – have stopped work because they cannot afford to commute.
In a letter dated Tuesday addressed to Zimbabwe’s largest hospital, the senior doctors who all work in the public sector said until all the fired doctors were reinstated, they would ‘no longer able to offer any emergency services’.
‘We do not accept that one can be dismissed for being incapacitated to come to work in an unsafe environment,’ the group said in a separate statement issued on Wednesday.
The doctors said hospitals were lacking basic equipment and staff, the situation becoming so bad that it amounted to ‘a silent genocide (which) continues to be perpetrated upon the people of Zimbabwe’.
State hospitals cater for the majority of Zimbabweans who cannot afford private care.
Wealthier patients including top politicians usually seek care in neighbouring South Africa or Asian countries.
A senior doctor who asked for his name to be withheld told AFP the situation had become untenable.
‘There is no public health in Zimbabwe at the moment, everything has come to a standstill, even those who were providing emergency services have given up,’ said the doctor.
- On 24th October, two EI affiliates in Zimbabwe, the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) and Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (ZIMTA) submitted a petition to Parliament, calling on the government to grant full collective bargaining rights to public sector workers.
Speaking on behalf of the two unions, Raymond MaMajongwe and Sifiso Ndlovu, said: ‘The government needs to take action now! We are saying time’s up and there should be no further delays!’
The petition notes that under current legislation there is neither protection of the right to organise for public service workers nor any mechanism for negotiation of terms and conditions of employment.
While the new Zimbabwe Constitution, adopted in 2013, provides for all employees to engage in collective bargaining apart from members of the security services, to date, successive governments have lacked the political will to amend the relevant public service laws to bring them into conformity.
The two unions are the largest trade unions in the education sector and are calling on the government to ratify ILO Conventions 151 and 154 on collective bargaining in the public sector and to amend the Public Service Act (1995) to grant this right.
They are also calling for legislation to clearly define the scope of essential services to exclude the teaching profession in conformity with the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association definitions.
Over the last year, PTUZ and ZIMTA have been spearheading a campaign to lobby the government to take action to ratify the Conventions and amend the legislation.
They have met with members of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and officials at the Ministry of Public Service to present their case.
In June 2019, they organised a successful ‘indaba’ – a meeting in traditional African culture whereby people come together to resolve issues – with the Parliamentary Committee members, the Ministry of Public Service and the ILO again to present their arguments and lobby for support.
Following the indaba, the unions agreed to submit two petitions to Parliament: One on salary and employment conditions, and the second on the right to collective bargaining.
The unions have also raised the issue at the June 2019 ILO Conference in Geneva and are mobilising the teaching profession through a signature campaign calling on the government to meet its commitments under the Constitution and to ratify ILO Conventions on collective bargaining in the public sector.