Despite poor working conditions, inadequate salaries and serious economic hardships faced by many workers in the country, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has maintained that Workers’ Day is still relevant.
International Workers’ Day or Labour Day is dedicated to honouring and commemorating the effort put in by workers across the world.
Also, popularly known as May Day, this occasion is all about revisiting the rights of workers and preventing them from getting exploited.
“It (Workers’ Day) was a day put aside by the UN in recognition of the tribulations and sacrifice that workers continue to endure as they toil at various workplaces,” ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo told CITE.
“The day remains a recognition of those living and those who succumbed to injuries and diseases as a result of an unsafe workplace. The day is worth commemorating because of the sacrifices that the workers have endured. It is more important to commemorate as opposed to celebrate when we have massive job deficits.”
Moyo challenged the powers-that-be to strive to restore the dignity of the working people.
“Workers should have the voice at the workplace, they should have job opportunities, health and safety guaranteed social protection when the time to retire comes.” He added that during working life workers should have rights that are protected and be “handsomely” remunerated.
ZCTU Western Region chairman, Ambrose Sibindi said it is important to view the day from a global perspective which makes it very important.
He said the day is a day of reflection for workers worldwide on their contributions to their economies.
“I think for the record, we are not really celebrating May Day as workers in Zimbabwe, we are commemorating this day, meaning to say for the moment we have nothing to celebrate but for commemorations, we cannot avoid commemorating this day because it is very critical,” said Sibindi.
“We are aware that the economy is on its knees, we are also aware that workers are facing a lot of hardships in terms of what they are getting as payment for the labour that they sell. We are also aware that as we speak the poverty datum line hovers around ZWL$100, 000 plus per month but for the record, we are very much aware that there are workers who are still paid as little as ZWL$20, 000 to ZWL$30, 000 per month meaning to say that they are far from the mark of the PDL.”
He added: “And this is really a serious challenge to the workers and even the employers, I think they need to be ashamed of this because surely, how do you make somebody work and at the end of the day you give them those peanuts.”
Vusumuzi Chirwa, a Bulawayo resident also said the day still remains relevant.
“Workers’ Day is important to Zimbabwean workers in that it unifies them regardless if they are public or private servants, regardless of economic sectors they belong to, and regardless of their profession,” said Chirwa.
“It is a day of reflecting on their services, salaries, and working conditions among other things.”
He, however, said more still needs to be done to address the plight of workers.
“Under the current economic environment which has eroded salaries of most workers putting them below the Poverty Datum Line, the day is not worth celebrating,” said Chirwa.
“Salaries of all workers should be dollarised and adjusted accordingly the same way some services and tax payments have been dollarised. We can’t afford hypocritical partial dollarisation of the economy.”