The way the issue of civil servants’ salaries has been handled since last year typifies how the Zanu PF government lacks respect for workers.
We have numerous instances where the government has displayed utter contempt for workers and what is happening in parastatals readily comes to mind. These State-controlled institutions have not only been failing to pay workers — some of them for years — but they have been turning workers into loafers due to viability problems caused by mismanagement.
Ironically, the fat cats running these institutions enjoy hefty packages while the workers take home literally nothing as has been the case at ZBC and NRZ for instance.
During and after the land reform programme many farm workers were left destitute and the government did not give a hoot about them. Most of them were unlawfully and ruthlessly evicted from the farms by Zanu PF politicians — top government officials among them. The government never lifted a finger to protect them under the law.
High-ranking government officials and politicians have taken over many companies that they have ruined, sending the workers into the street with nothing and nothing was done to protect the resultant destitute.
The much touted indigenisation law has no inbuilt mechanism to protect the worker in the event that thriving foreign-owned companies fail under new indigenous owners.
Currently, the government is pushing for labour market flexibility where companies would be under fewer and more relaxed regulations to allow them to fire employees at will, set unreasonably low wages and change working hours willy nilly among other things.
What this means is that the government is either not content with the ruthless, illegal treatment of workers currently obtaining that includes slave wages and non- payment of salaries. It needs a legal base to exploit more the already suffering workers.
This attitude against workers informs the government’s inertia when it comes to creating jobs. During the election campaign period Zanu PF promised to create millions of jobs, but as soon as they got into power they started pursuing policies that actually destroy the few jobs available.
The ruthless attitude towards workers is understandable because the Zanu PF government feels that its support base is in rural areas. For them, the worker is insignificant in their political scheme of things. A very bad and dangerous attitude because the worker is the most important resource.
If the government is serious about pulling this country out of the current economic mess, it should recognise the important role of the worker.
This business of taking employees for granted has serious consequences. No country can develop without the support and sweat of its workers. It is as simple as that.
The workers’ buy-in is important for the implementation of any development policy. The government should realise the importance of the employee and strengthen his cause for the development of the country. They can only ignore the worker at the nation’s peril.