2 May 2014

Zimbabwe: Time Workers Reclaimed Trade Unions


YESTERDAY, May 1, was Workers Day, a day set aside to celebrate the key component of any functional society, its workforce who drive production in all sectors.

Workers Day, which has its origins in the historical struggles of workers and their trade unions for fair employment standards and worker rights, went largely unnoticed in Zimbabwe, serve for the few workers in formal employment who got some time off to be with their families but it was business as usual in the vibrant informal sector where owner/operators went about their business undeterred by the calendar event.

While as we report elsewhere in this issue, the umbrella trade unions, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and its rival the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions organised some events in various cities and towns, these were poorly subscribed, and for good reason.

Workers have largely lost faith in the quasi-political organisations that many use as springboards to national politics rather than championing the cause of workers.

Some of the unions see Government not as a partner but an adversary which is why one of the unions, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, was beating its chest yesterday after its career secretary-general Raymond Majongwe was invited to address Workers Day celebrations in Botswana under the theme, '"Unleashing a progressive labour agenda through regime change."

Many of the workers who lost their place in the formal sector are now doing their own things as owner/operators reflecting the massively transformed political economy of Zimbabwe.

What was destroyed by the decades-long sanctions regime is a foreign-owned, foreign dominated economy. It was never ours.

What is emerging in its place is a nascent Zimbabwean economy built on emerging, albeit small businesses, which are the building blocks for a genuine, black Zimbabwean wealth-creating middle class in the coming years.

All they need is the requisite support to grow their businesses in the context of the progressive policies of indigenisation and economic empowerment.

To this end we salute Government for its empowerment policies and urge it to continue supporting and promoting the growth of the small businesses in line with the vision of Zim-Asset, which seeks to develop an empowered society that owns the means of production.

We also urge workers to reclaim their unions so that rather than taking an adversarial approach to Government, they can become partners in growth, and in so doing help not only improve the lot of the worker but also grow the economy for the benefit of the worker.

Workers Day need not continue to be a non-event, but should be a day of celebration in a progressive, indigenised and empowered economy.

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