THE International Labour Organisation (ILO) says it is engaging government following accusations it has been intimidating and harassing union leaders each time they demand better salaries and working conditions.

Early this month, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) filed a complaint at the ILO about abuse of union leaders.

The complaint was addressed to ILO chairperson — committee on Freedom and Association Evance Rabban Kaluta and Karen Curtis, director-general chief, Freedom of Association Branch International Labour Standards at the international labour body.

The UN specialised agency responded in a letter dated May 16 that it would approach government over the allegations before they were examined by ILO’s governing body’s committee.

“In accordance with the procedure in force, the text of your communication will be transmitted to government for its observations,” said Curtis in the letter addressed to Artuz, urging the union to submit more evidence.

Should Zimbabwe be “hauled” before ILO on a matter that would have been resolved internally? Certainly not.

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Zimbabwe will find itself in such a situation due to arrogance on the part of government in failing to address the concerns of its employees.

The argument that there are no resources to pay a decent salary no longer holds water after the government showed that it can spend as it pleases.

The revelations that government is building presidential villas to accommodate Sadc heads of State and government during the bloc’s 44th summit in Harare in August shows that resources are available.

There is no love lost between civil servants and the government.

The government in March increased civil servants salaries by US$20.

Government employees dismissed the increase as insignificant at a time when the cost of living has been increasing, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (ZimStat).

Teachers are demanding a minimum wage of between US$840 and US$1 260.

But government says it has no resources to pay such amounts, yet it went out of its way to pamper lawmakers, ministers, chiefs and judges.

According to ZimStat, the Food Poverty Line (FPL) for one person rose by about 50% to ZiG424,95 in April from the previous month, piling more pressure on citizens.

The FPL represents the amount of money that can afford an individual a daily minimum energy intake of 2 100 calories for one not to be deemed poor.

The rise in the FPL for one person comes as salaries have lagged, creating the working poor.  For the worker, things are not well as they appear to get the short end of the stick.

For the government, this ILO “probe” is unfortunate and does not bode well for a “listening administration” that wants to show to all and sundry that it is different from its predecessors.

In the end, Zimbabwe could be paying the price of arrogance after failing to realise that it is better to jaw-jaw than war-war, according to the late British statesman Winston Churchill.