WALKING through the streets of Harare’s capital city yesterday, on a day that is internationally set aside to celebrate the working class and all labourers on this planet, scenes of open shops and people busy running around was evidence enough that in Zimbabwe this day has now been reduced to any other day.
This year’s International Labour Day theme: Sustainable Pension for all: The Role of Social Partners speaks volumes to the dire situation the masses of Zimbabwe have been exposed to.
The wages of those still in formal employment are now so paltry that it is a real wonder how they are managing to make it to work every day. And for the second time in a decade, their pensions are being gnawed into insignificance by inflation and governemnt recklessness.
Meanwhile, price hikes, job cuts and fuel scarcity are just some of the many challenges workers are grappling with day-in, day-out. This has effectively drained all the joy that Workers’ Day used to bring.
Many companies, if not all, are struggling to pay wages, let alone a cost of living adjustment to those measly wages. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president Peter Mutasa summed it all when he said the future was simply bleak for the Zimbabwean worker.
We were all very hopeful when the Second Republic swept away what we all thought was the reason of our misery: Robert Mugabe and his repressive regime. But, alas, it appears we were happy too soon as we are being told to be a little more patient. But patience for any man or woman nursing an empty stomach can be a major challenge.
It is our considered view that those holding the reins must remain alive to the fact that a restless labour (both public and private) force is the last thing any economy needs.
It is important that issues to do with labour are quickly handled as workers are the backbone of any nation. A weakened labour force is a serious indictment on all recovery efforts any country may undertake.
Our government should remember the country’s labour force and work hard to cater for its needs, if it hopes to achieve meaningful progress in the establishment of a strong Second Republic.
We were gratified to hear that the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) might be revived. This was one of the many avenues that could solve some of the challenges government is struggling to solve, so the earlier the three parties to TNF — government, employers and labour — sit down around a table and discuss pertinent socio-economic issues, the better it will be for our economy.
While intentions are very good, actions speak louder. Labour is waiting, albeit restlessly.