A GLOOMY cloud hangs over this year’s Workers’ Day commemorations, as workers in Bulawayo mourn the death of industry and non-payment of salaries, a situation that has been deteriorating since 2008.
Report by Staff Reporters
Workers in Bulawayo, formerly Zimbabwe’s industrial hub, bemoaned working conditions, saying employers continued to violate their rights to decent work, decent wages and salaries and unfair dismissals.
It is estimated that in Bulawayo at least 20 000 jobs have been lost, as companies continue to close down or relocate to other towns.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) vice-chairperson Ambrose Sibindi said they were not celebrating Workers’ Day, but were using it to convey their grievances.
“We as Bulawayo workers we are not celebrating per se, we are trying to air our grievances to the authorities including the government for the economic meltdown that resulted in people losing their jobs,” he said.
“Some employers are not paying their workers or they are being given peanuts yet they are producing every day.”
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe national coordinator Enock Paradzai said they will be joining the commemorations though they will be moaning and sharing their problems as workers.
“When considering the history of the workers in this country, we won’t really be celebrating because we have absolutely nothing to celebrate about.”
As if to highlight the dire situation of workers in Bulawayo, Marvo Stationery recently resolved to send its employees on three months unpaid leave due to financial challenges.
The company’s workers’ committee chairperson, Noah Marandu said instead of celebrating this day they were mourning, as their management was failing to give them their salaries backdated to 2009.
“Workers’ Day is rapidly losing its lustre here in Bulawayo because of deindustrialisation in the city,” he said.
“Instead of workers being respected and honoured, they are denied their salaries yet they bring productivity in the economy. As workers we should remain united and fight these injustices.”
At another struggling Bulawayo company, Pigott Maskew workers said they had nothing to celebrate today as Workers’ Day celebrations were pointless and had no significance to them.
“How can we be expected to celebrate the day when we are not getting our monthly salaries as a right and we are being expected to work for nothing,” said one worker. “Workers’ Day reminds us that we are now slaves in the industry and so we do not want to celebrate it.”
Yesterday, a strike by more than 40 Pigott Maskew workers entered its second day, as employees protested the non-payment of salaries, dating back to 10 months ago.
The workers told NewsDay that they were not going to work until the management paid them their outstanding salaries.
They said whenever they asked for their dues, the company’s managers would call people from the President’s Office, Ministry of Labour or police officials from Donnington to address them against going on strike.
The company’s human resources manager, Nomusa Ncube declined to comment on the matter, while the general manager, Joseph Gunda could not be reached for comment.
The closure of big companies continues also haunts the Workers’ Day commemorations in Gweru.
Gweru is a shadow of its former self, with companies such as shoe manufacturing giant, Bata, steel making, Zimbabwe Alloys and the country’s sole glass manufacturer, Zimglass either having closed down or on the verge of collapse.
Former Gweru mayor and Deputy Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Sesel Zvidzai has since taken it upon himself to revive the ailing industries in his home city.
Early this year, Zvidzai came up with an initiative dubbed Gweru Industry Revival Initiative (GIRI) to resuscitate industries in the city.
He said the lobby is meant to rope in players in the industry and other stakeholders to revive close to 15 big companies that have collapsed.
“We have a situation where big companies like Zimcast, Zimbabwe Alloys, Anchor Yeast, Kariba Batteries, Radar Castings, GW Minerals have either close down are on the verge of collapse,” he said.
“My lobby is to resuscitate these companies so that thousands of Gweru people left jobless can have their jobs back.”
A split in labour movement, ZCTU has further compounded the situation for workers, as factions of the trade union are concentrating on fighting each other, rather than for the workers.
“It is unfortunate that workers in Gweru are suffering with the collapse and closure on companies and today we celebrate May Day divided,” James Chiseko, a Gweru worker, said.
Meanwhile in Masvingo , police have now given the ZCTU the green light to proceed with marches planned for today after initially barring them.
The police last week banned the ZCTU from holding demonstrations on Workers’ Day, but the labour body, led by Nkiwane, filed an urgent High Court chamber application seeking an order to compel the police to grant them an order to proceed with the marches.