Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the country’s main labour body, have called for a peaceful push, saying the government has been reneging on its promises to improve the welfare of health workers.
Before the outbreak of Covid-19, ZCTU had an unfinished business of fighting for a reasonable living minimum wage. The labour movement was calling for the return of the use of US dollar as a mode of payment for wages and salaries. Experts argued that the country was not ready to have its own currency because the economic fundamentals were not in place.
The labour body even proposed another alternative of using the South African Rand. Alas, it was labelled ‘unpatriotic’ by the pro-establishment. ZCTU President Peter Mutasa told the media that everyone is crying as inflation takes a bite on incomes. The ZWL$2 500 minimum wage gazetted by the government has been eroded by the soaring inflation. During the lockdown period, prices of goods and services have risen by over 500% while the Poverty Datum Line is way above ZWL$8 000. Most goods and services are now priced in US dollar.
While Zimbabwe is endowed with so many resources, corruption has been singled out as the cancer behind economic collapse. During the Tripartite Negotiation Forum (TNF) meetings, he said, the government pleaded with social partners to give them six months to put the economy back on track anticipating that they would be able to stabilise the currency within stipulated period.
“They literary refused to adopt the Rand and the US$ in the name of sovereignty. You can all now see where we are now,” he said. “Everyone is crying, from the civil servant, the student to the informal worker. The center cannot hold anymore. We are now facing the precipice. Workers have been pushed too far and they cannot take it anymore.”
Before the onset of Covid-19, ZCTU had mobilised workers to take action against not only poor wages but also the high cost of living. The mandate was given by workers during their consultation process in the form of labour forums that took place across the country. “We had put the action plan on halt due to Covid-19 pandemic and also to give dialogue a chance. It looks like we are going nowhere and we today are advising the government that we have been left with no option than to exercise our constitutional right to protest.
“We are therefore calling on all Zimbabweans who have Zimbabwe at heart to join the ZCTU as we mount a peaceful push for a better Zimbabwe. However, we cannot mobilize on the basis of sectors. No more informal – formal divide, no more urban – rural divide, no east, west, south and north divide only the poor and oppressed collectively waging a struggle for a fair share of the cake.
“We are all scavenging for food and starving. So, what is the basis of the division? We need a united front from students, residents, peasant farmers and civic society. The nurses have already shown the way and we must support them. We salute the heroic and united position adopted by health service workers who are fighting for better salaries. For too long the government has been reneging on its promises to improve the welfare of health workers. They are front line workers in the fight against Corona virus, ” he said.
Another labour movement, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe declared that as from Monday 22 June teachers will be embarking on action to press for US$ salaries. Mutasa said it is our collective struggle; everyone is suffering and must collectively contribute.
“We know we will be met with brutal force and there is a possibility that some people might be killed, tortured, abducted and brutalised. This is the price some of us a prepared to pay. We must all mount a serious collective and prolonged protest until we get a better Zimbabwe,” he said.
Zimbabweans, he said, are dying silently during this lockdown period due to hunger and starvation. “The ZWL$200 per household promised by the government during this lockdown has not reached them despite it being too little. No one will fight for us but ourselves. As workers, it is our belief that we have a Constitutional right to go and fill the streets and I am inviting all Zimbabweans to this worthy struggle.”
It will be tough, but be assured victory is certain if we are united and determined, he added.
Picture: Disgruntled nurses and other health workers at Parirenyatwa Hospital demonstrated this week over poor salaries.
Photo Credit: NewZimbabwe<