28 October 2013

Zimbabwe: Bad Working Conditions Status Quo, Say Trade Unions

Harare — Last month, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions organized a demonstration to commemorate the brutal police arrest of 147 trade union leaders and activists seven years ago. The arrested were demonstrating against the deteriorating working conditions at the time. According to the ZCTU, the situation hasn't improved much.

Some 100 workers attended a demonstration on 13 September in the Zimbabwean capital Harare. The yearly march organized by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) commemorated the arrest of 147 trade unionists on 13 September 2006. According to ZCTU Secretary-General Japhet Moyo some of them were brutally tortured.

Back in 2006, the ZCTU demonstrated against the deteriorating living standards of workers at a time of skyrocketing inflation. Not much has changed since, according to Ian Makoshori, chairman of the ZCTU's youth organization.

"It is said that Zimbabwe has 90 percent unemployment. But in fact it's 100 percent, because the ten percent who have a job earn salaries below the poverty datum line (PDL)," said Makoshori.

The PDL in Zimbabwe stands at 1.16 US dollars per day.

Women's rights

Patricia Mugumbi, one of the demonstrators, said: "As you know, we [women] experience periods once a month. At times you will need to rest, but at workplaces it is a dismissible offence when you are caught sleeping. Also, we no longer have restrooms. We don't even have sanitary bins at our workplaces. As women, we feel that are rights are not being recognized."

Mugumbi also complained that salaries are not paid on schedule. She said that she herself had only received her July salary "last week" and didn't know when her August salary would arrive.

"Nowadays it's difficult to be a worker especially for women," she said. "Most of our companies are finding it difficult to pay us on time. As we speak right now I have kids who need to be fed, they need school fees and clothing."

Keep on fighting

Makoshori, the ZCTU chairman, recalled how in 2006 the organization was demonstrating against high taxes.

"But nothing has changed since then," he said. "What's more, the three percent subscription for NSSA was increased to four percent, but they did not justify the increase."

The NSSA is the statutory corporate body tasked by the government to provide social security.

According to Makoshori: "If the government keeps on failing to recognize our rights as workers we will keep on fighting for our rights."

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