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Thursday, August 20, 2015
IT WAS A HEAVY HUMMER FOR THE WORKERS FROM THE SUPREME COURT IN ZIMBABWE!
Going back memory lane, we recall how the Korean wife of Charles Ray, the then US Ambassador to Zimbabwe had been spitting venom as she terrorized desperate workers taking advantage of the employment crisis gripping Zimbabwe. We also recall how Morgan Tsvangirai left workers in the cold by dumping the ZCTU and ventured into politics by launching the MDC Party in 1999. That was after he attracted imperialism’s ever winking eye by staging successful food riots and mass workers demonstration - the harbinger that ruined the then country’s intact economy from 1998. Since then, Zimbabwean workers who chose not to be brain drained continue battling at their work places. Day by day, we continue noting how lives of the workers who most of them earn salaries below Poverty Datum Line and the unemployed are worsening while workers’ unions including the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) and Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) are taking no actions but political sides. In a nutshell, it is clear that these trade unions are simply defensive organizations of the working class with the limited role of protecting wages and working conditions and it is by their empty actions that their effectiveness ought to be judged. However, to rub salt to the starving workers’ wounds, the Supreme Court echoed a landmark judgement on 17 July 2015 that left tongues wagging!
The Supreme Court unleashed this newly-discovered power of employers by allowing the termination of employment by employers on notice without benefits. This judgement triggered massive job cuts as big business politicians with companies with a bloated workforce and had been struggling to pay workers were the biggest beneficiaries as they took advantage in cutting jobs. Before, the Labour Act made it impossible for the employer to hire workers on contract basis because if the worker is continuously offered for up to 3 months, there were deemed to have been permanently engaged and any plans to terminate their services would force the employer to go through the complicated and often expensive retrenchment route. Thence, state enterprises and parastatals also joined in this madness of getting rid of workers namely the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Coporation, Grain Marketing Board, CMED, Air Zimbabwe et cetera. Profit making giants like ECONET were not left out! Within a month, about 10 000 workers have since lost their jobs. Also taking advantage of this was the local Buddhist Congregation that had been in labour dispute with its employees for over a year over underpayment of salaries. This emerged after the Management Committee of the Buddhist Congregation planted a class struggle within the workers. For this reason, those paid less had to file their grievances via the ZFTU that ended up stewing on the worker’s peanut buttered salaries. It was a surprise to see the representative from the ZFTU endorsing the forced retrenchment made by this Management Committee on the 30th of April 2015 and before the Supreme Court judgement was announced. It boggles my mind that how come the issue of outstanding back pay that has been subject to an Arbitral Award of about $100 000,00 had not been dealt with first. Why did this muscled man at the Buddhist Congregation unsympathetically chose to fire the workers first before the issue of underpayments was resolved? And following to this, it was a pity that towards end of July, the workers were given $30 000 to share as their Arbitral Award and they were urged to accept this by their ZFTU representative who fooled them that there were lucky while vexing the uneducated worker’s minds with the Supreme Court ruling. From this, the ZFTU representative took $8 000 from the workers just for efforts he made: leaving the workers jobless. On their retrenchment packages, he too deducted $500 from each forced to quit employee. To the ZFTU, is this fighting for the worker’s rights? According to law, these employees has a right to claim their Arbitral award grossly as they had been battling to make ends meet on underpayment for years and applying the Supreme Court ruling was totally unconstitutional.
Though these toothless workers representatives threatened the government to stage street protests and civil unrest unless it was to stop the ongoing massive job losses. These workers representatives fooled workers that they would not sit and watch while they were being fired. Over 200 workers representatives on protruding tummies staged a meeting at Stoddart Hall in the high density suburb of Mbare where they vociferously denounced the Supreme Court ruling pointing out that employees would embark on massive and crippling strikes to stop the job cuts that definitely would cause untold suffering to the sacked workers. Further, they reached at a resolution to on massive demonstrations as well to ensure that Cde Mugabe invoke Presidential Powers to restore order in the labour market as employers are willy-nilly firing workers cheaply without the provision of retrenchment packages. Amazingly, promises by these workers unions to stage nationwide went with a goose chase and up to now nothing has been put in place to save the workers from the calamity!
It is apparent that the Supreme Court ruling was a declaration that permanent employment is no longer guaranteed as employees are destined to be engaged on contract. Even if one has worked for 30 years he/she can only get three month notice pay which is downright peanuts. Latter, it was then the government through the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare indicating that it would amend the Labour Act hastily so as a panacea to the working class plea. We are not aware if these to be made amendments would bring a smile to the let down worker’s face requiring job security, labour market security and a living wage… However, as workers are bound to the wages system the amendments to be made won’t rescue them from the very jaws of exploitation. Obviously, the workers would remain in chains within this wage system where they enter into contracts with employers whereby the value they create for their bosses is more than the value they receive in wages. Thus how the current system makes profit through exploitation!
It is open that the current insane system discards improving the conditions of the majority working class but simply oils the functions it was adapted to perform while enabling the pursuit of profit for private gain regardless of other external outcomes by a privileged minority. We can only get rid of this unfair sucking system by establishing a society which can be organized democratically in the interest of all the people regardless of race or creed. Such a society can only be organized on the basis of common ownership, democratic control and production solely for use – a moneyless stateless society where employment will be a thing of the past and where nobody would be bossed. Thus real socialism! Let us speed the day!