23 February 2013

Zambia: Casualisation, Job Creation and Poverty Reduction (part 2)

LAST week this column, considered our readers' reactions to 'Causes and effects of poor work culture'.

This column connected such readers' views and experiences to 'Casualisation, job creation and poverty reduction.

Labour Minister, Fackson Shamenda ignited such a connection when he complained of some organisations employing casual workers for too long without putting them on permanent employment to facilitate planning for their future, and avoid being destitute when such citizens are old (Times of Zambia: 5/2/2012; p.2).

Mr Shamenda called for domestication of labour instruments to prevent workers from being exploited.

This week, we continue with 'Casualisation, job creation and poverty reduction: Part two.

When labour laws are enforced accordingly, such workers were not going to be laid off without each committing a genuine labour offence; and if they were laid off without committing any labour offence, the concerned organisation is obliged to pay each worker leave benefits and other legal obligations; giving such workers a good opportunity to start life afresh.

Organisations give short contracts to avoid paying workers gratuities or terminal benefits when such workers are laid off.

A practice where workers are laid off without terminal benefits or gratuity worsens poverty levels in Zambia.

Such terminal benefits can be used for going to college for a specific career or can be used as capital in entrepreneurship.

What is also interesting in this casualisation is that the same firm that lays off many workers this week promises to employ many other workers in few month to come.

This is a mockery of job creation! Could it be that all the laid off workers didn't have relevant qualifications or were not hard working?

As long as casualisation is a common feature on the labour market, job creation and poverty alleviation will remain a pipe dream in Zambia.

World Bank delegation leader, Rudolf Trefers said Zambian Government should continue finding ways to create more jobs for people if poverty levels are to reduce; especially in rural areas.

It is against such a background that the Government should be commended for initiating the right steps in setting standards to effectively and fairly address issues that are negatively affecting workers in Zambia.

But forthe Government to achieve its goals in addressing labour relating issues that are negatively affecting workers and poverty alleviation in this country, it should seriously consider the views of Lusaka District principal labour officer, Kabaso Chola who was quoted as having said that staffing, transport and communication facilities were not adequate in his district.

While, Mr Chola might have been speaking for his district, such a situation might be common in all district labour offices in Zambia; and some employers might be taking advantage of some limitations and challenges in the Labour ministry to promote their business interests; and in the process exploit workers.

The issue of casualisation was a big thorn in many people's fresh considering how much such casual workers are paid per month.

In most cases, employers who employ casual workers don't consider age, size of family, knowledge, experience and skills of an individual.

Most employers, including the Government hasn't appreciated the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR)'s monthly living basket as an indicator to how much a family of six should have to have a decent living. Casual workers in most organisations are paid the same amount regardless of one's age, family size or qualifications.

This makes lives for those who have families and are renting houses unbearable.

Some casual workers are not only paid low wages but they are also paid late.

In some cases, we have learnt of reports where some security guard firms deliberately don't pay their security guards for some months so that whoever will feel that he or she is working for nothing can stop as the arrears for such personnel will be part of profits for such a security firm as no one will come back to claim for that money or no labour officer will force that firm to pay the money owing to such a worker (s).

It is in this light that most youths in Zambia are failing to start their careers because of limited financial support either from their parents who are casual workers or from their own casual employment.

During United National Independence Party (UNIP) reign, any worker who worked for three to sixs months was automatically employed on permanent and pensionable establishment.

This meant that once one was employed on permanent basis, one's monthly salary increased and conditions of service changen for the better; leave days per month started accumulating.

This was beginning of genuine job opportunity and poverty reduction for workers taken on such employment conditions.

But where workers work as casual workers for too long; and are laid off at any time without any benefits or gratuity, such workers have no base to start life afresh.

They go into destitution which might aggravate crime and other social vices.

In this analysis, it is difficult to justify that some local and foreign investors were creating genuine jobs and contributing to poverty reduction in Zambia.

The end of casualisation in public and private organisations would create genuine employment that would facilitate poverty reduction in Zambia.

As Platform for Social Protection (PSP) country co-ordinator, Mutale Wakunuma reportedly noted, as the country moves towards formulating National Social Protection Policy, it was important that Government considers formulating several policies that would harmonise issues relating to poverty and vulnerability (Post: 6/2/2013;p.25).

And policies to do with casualisation and conditions of service for workers should be part of National Social Protection Policy as casualisation had a bearing on poverty and vulnerability levels in a country.

This is why Finance Minister, Alexander Chikwanda was recently quoted saying that the Government would continue to pursue people-centred and broad based economic policies that would provide a conducive macro-economic environment for delivering inclusive national development (Times of Zambia 9/2/2013; p.1).

Such broad based conducive environment should include the interests of investors and those of workers so that the latter and other citizens can also feel the benefits of economic growth in Zambia.

During the MMD government, local and foreign investors had a lot of privileges to run business to their advantages.

This was good to attract investor confidence in the economy. But for how long; and to whose benefits?

It was from such a background that it is encouraging to learn that Mr Shamenda expressed his concern that employing citizens as casual workers for too long makes such citizens fail to plan for their future which makes most citizens become destitute after retirement.

Now that the Labour minister is concerned about how some workers were being treated; and that such treatment negatively affects citizens to plan for their future and that such a situation could lead to high poverty levels, it is hoped that the Government and respective employers would find a lasting solutions to issues relating to casualisation, job creation and poverty alleviation in Zambia.

Such labour policies would help workers and their families to plan for their incomes.

Some school leavers would be able to start training in their planned careers after they are offered permanent employment from their causal employment.

In addition to increase in monthly income and leave days, permanent employment is beneficial because among the conditions of services, one can have access to loans for education, house loans, etc which improves one's living standards.

It is interesting to learn that Zambia Breweries (ZB) Plc has one of the best policies on human resources development.

ZB Plc corporate affairs director, Luke Njovu told this writer ZB Plc has individual Development Programme (IDP) where workers, in consultation with their line supervisors propose their trains needs; and when a supervisor sees the necessity for such a worker to be trained in his or her field to improve on his or her performance, ZB Plc sponsors such workers for relevant training.

ZB Plc staff development policy is one of the highest corporate social responsibility which every organisation should emulate.

Putting workers on permanent establishment and training them in respective professional areas does not only benefit concerned workers but it also equips them with relevant knowledge and skills to take an organisation to greater heights in a competitive business environment.

As the Government makes working environment enjoyable and beneficial for workers, one also expects casual workers to be honest and hard working so that employers can assess and select those who really qualify to be on permanent employment.

Therefore, aim at impressing your current employers so that when benefits of permanent employment come, you can be among the selected workers in this category.

Who knows, may be many organisations would take a leaf from Zambia Breweries staff development strategies; and if you prove to be a good and hard working worker, you might soon be on the list of those to be promoted or those to be on staff development list.

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