DAGGERS have been drawn between government and the country’s hard-pressed workers, who have threatened a national stayaway today in protest against the sharp rise in the cost of living, coupled with the recent fuel price hikes which have seen transport fares increasing by up to $5 per single trip, mostly in Harare and Bulawayo.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) yesterday said with effect from midnight yesterday, all workers should go on a nationwide stayaway.
“After wide consultations, the ZCTU general council resolved to call for a nationwide stayaway with effect from midnight today (yesterday) following the insensitive and provocative increase of fuel prices by the President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa,” ZCTU said in a statement posted on its Twitter page.
This comes as government has called for a meeting of the Tripartite Negotiation Forum (TNF) today to discuss the current economic challenges facing the country.
TNF, which last met over a year ago, brings together government, business and labour representatives.
ZCTU president Peter Mutasa confirmed the planned stayaway, saying fuel price hikes had triggered the industrial action.
“The fuel hikes announcement came late on Saturday and on Sunday we consulted workers and affiliates,” Mutasa said.
“The issues that came out were that workers do not have money to report to work because transport has been hiked to $5 in some places, and they cannot afford transport fares of $10 per day, which is $260 per month when the average worker earns $300 – and so in primary school Math we say it can’t.”
He added: “We resolved that with effect from midnight (yesterday), we go for a stayaway – and it is not going to be one day. We are only starting tomorrow (today).”
Mutasa said ZCTU members would be in the city centre to encourage people not to report to work as it was not wise to borrow money to go to work.
“This time, we (country) are going to a nasty round of suffering because fuel hikes affect every sector. We (ZCTU) are not afraid of arrests because we already know that we are dealing with a brutal government and people cannot continue living miserable lives, and we have to take the mantle and move the people forward,” he said.
Mutasa said the ZCTU demanded that government immediately addresses the economic challenges collectively with all stakeholders, immediately redollarises and to reversing the fuel increases because it was aimed at benefitting the few cartels controlling fuel. He also said the ZCTU had already given government a seven-day ultimatum to sort out the economic quagmire or face nationwide strikes.
“We want government to make a policy pronouncement that from now on, all workers will be paid in the United States dollars and we have already given the Minister of Labour Sekai Nzenza a seven-day ultimatum to address the issue,” Mutasa said.
“We are talking to organisations dealing with children’s rights, as well as women’s rights because women bear the brunt of the economic crisis. We are also talking to student groups because many learners are dropping out of schools because they cannot afford the fees, and we want them to join us in pressing government to address these problems.”
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) secretary-general Raymond Majongwe said government’s failure to sort out the economy was now driving every Zimbabwean to mutiny.
He said when demonstrations by workers begin, they should not arrest workers because they (government) caused these problems.
“Government is responsible for this chaos and for sending workers like civil servants to strike. So, when they start arresting people during the demonstrations they must first arrest themselves (government) because they are the ones forcing people to act in the manner of demonstrations,” Majongwe said.
He said with the new fuel hikes, the $1 733 minimum salaries being demanded by teachers’ unions under the Apex Council had already been overtaken by events.
“Our incapacitation as workers has actually worsened, and now it means that government needs to be clever in addressing our issues otherwise the centre will not hold,” Majongwe said.
“One also needs to understand that when the Apex Council demanded a $1 733 wage increase, the PTUZ suggested $3 086 as of November 2018. As far as we are concerned, even this $3 086 has been overtaken by events after the 300% hike in fuel prices. It is impossible for employees to pay transport fares to work.”
The Zimbabwe Economic Movement said Zimbabweans must prepare for protests due to unsustainably high transport costs and government’s failure to revive the economy.