Worker exploitation spikes: Trade unionist

BY SILAS NKALA

FORMER Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) regional officer Percy Mcijo has lamented the high levels of exploitation of government and private sector workers by employers taking advantage of economic instability affecting the country.

Many companies are reneging on effecting reasonable increments on workers’ salaries citing diminishing revenues, he said.

“The dynamic world of work demands the existence of trade unions to protect and defend workers against all forms of discrimination, exploitation and abuse perpetrated by non-progressive employers or their agents. Currently, the level of worker exploitation is alarming and worrying because employers are hiding behind the economic crisis not to pay or increase workers’ salaries,” Mcijo, who is now the director of the Street Wise Informal Traders’ Association, said.

“Zimbabwe though highly deindustrialised, highly educated and highly enlightened in terms of labour laws, is a ground for worker rights violations day-in day-out, where you find tribunals like the Labour Court, Labour ministry, National Employment Councils and workplace disciplinary committees kept on their toes and even the High Court, hearing hundreds of labour matters on a daily basis.”

He said although Zimbabwe’s labour laws tried to balance the interests of both parties, employers tended to violate these and exploit workers.

“There is strength in numbers, pension schemes, medical aid and funeral schemes, low interest loan schemes, housing schemes, exchange programmes with sister unions in the Sadc region, internationally and locally must be accessible to the people,” he said.

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“Wisdom, reason and reality have it that a union is a union despite non-registration, non-certification. The labour laws recognise even the unregistered union in its own respective status as a workers union in its own right,” he said adding that only employers who are bent on muzzling workers dispute this.

“An employer or its agent that intimidates its employees from joining a union is proving beyond any reasonable doubt that workers no matter where they are employed, need a union to safeguard their rights. Such behaviour or action works against the spirit of the Labour Act of Zimbabwe and the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” Mcijo said.

Mcijo said workers should join and participate in unions to avoid oppression, exploitation, abuse and manipulation at the workplace, while urging them to shun unions of employer’s choice, commonly known as yellow or sweetheart unions.

“They protect the employer’s interests at the expense of workers’ interests,” he added.

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