THE Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has expressed concern at the increasing tension between Government and the Zambia Federation of Employers over the recently announced revised minimum wages.
And the ZCTU has unveiled its expectations ahead of the 2013 national Budget presentation and has implored its affiliate unions to do the same.
Speaking during a media briefing in Lusaka yesterday, ZCTU secretary-general, Roy Mwaba said the union was concerned about a number of issues that were off-shoots of the recently revised minimum wage, saying a lasting solution could not be found without dialogue.
Mr Mwaba reiterated that ZCTU supported the revision of the minimum wage, and that it was one of the tools that the Government could use to ensure shared responsibility.
He, however, acknowledged that the new minimum wage would not help concerned employees to meet basic needs if paid at minimum, as evidenced by the current statistics by the Central Statistical Office (CSO) and Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) in their basic food basket for a family of six.
"However, we admit that there are challenges arising from the implementation. For this reason, dialogue would be the best approach to resolve this matter without any employee losing employment. Any well meaning Zambian or employer cannot go ahead to fire an employee before engaging in dialogue.
"Firing in this case is expected to be the last resort when all other avenues for dialogue have not worked. It is for this reason that, as the labour movement, we would like to urge the Zambia Federation of Employers and the Ministry of Labour to dialogue. They won't resolve any issue through exchanges in the Press and in this case, there will be no winner and no loser, so dialogue is the only way out," he said.
On the 2013 national budget, Mr Mwaba said it provided a unique dimension of expectations to workers for being the first Budget that would have been absolutely planned under the Patriotic Front (PF) Government.
"Our main expectation is that the 2013 Budget will provide Government the opportunity to outline major economic policies that will ensure sustained broad-based growth and particularly specify possible interventions for employment creation and attainment of decent working conditions for workers in Zambia," he said.
Mr Mwaba said following its consultative meeting on June 29, 2012, ZCTU arrived at the proposals focusing on income tax, access to financial credit and employment creation.
On income tax, Mr Mwaba said ZCTU was concerned that few formal sector workers had for a long time been contributing a large share to the national Budget through Pay-As-You-Earn and thus proposed that the 2013 Budget should provide adequate tax relief to the category of workers.