Today marks Workers’ Day, a day when employees are supposed to be celebrating and reflecting on achievements for the past year, but instead a pall looms over this day, as working conditions continue to deteriorate.
Just recently, nurses were ostensibly fired for going on an industrial action, yet the Constitution recognises their right to withhold their labour, something symptomatic of the reversal of workers’ rights in the past few years.
Firing the nurses, while it may have sent a chill down some of them, is tantamount to addressing symptoms, yet the underlying causes are untouched.
Instead of firing them, the government ought to be addressing the working conditions and creating an enabling environment.
Doctors were on strike recently, while teachers have also threatened to down their tools. This speaks of fundamental issues bedevilling the public service that the government ought to address instead of resorting to firing workers.
In the private sector, workers are yet to recover from the jobs carnage in the wake of the Zuva ruling three years ago that allowed employers to retrench employees on three months’ notice.
This was followed by a flood of job losses and this has contributed massively to the joblessness and high unemployment level in the country.
Since that ruling, promises of creating employment have not yielded much and the workers continue to suffer the brunt of a malfunctioning economy.
What the country now has is an employers’ market, where workers’ rights can be ignored because employers know that there are millions more in search of jobs and vocal people are expendable.
Thus, the condition of employees continue to deteriorate and it is unlikely to improve in the current circumstances.
What the government should be concentrating on now is creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive while also strengthening workers’ rights by ensuring the Constitution and labour laws are conducive for economic growth.
The government should also pull out of the private sector, as its presence creates monopolies and destroys competition, which ultimately lead to stifling of workers’ rights.
It is imperative that as workers gather today, they use this day to reflect on their experiences and how they can engage the government to improve their conditions.
There should be continuous engagement between the workers, the government and the private sector — a relationship that should not be based on animosity, but harmony, as that is the only way employees’ conditions can be improved.
The Zimbabwean employee is far from where they are supposed to be and Workers’ Day should serve as a reminder of the aspirations the country had at independence and how it can work towards the goals it once had.