April 30, 2015
OUR REFLECTIONS ON LABOUR DAY
First we would like to pay special tribute to our workers for their contribution to our country’s developmental agenda. We are a better country today because of their sweat and toil hence it is befitting for them to be thanked for all the hard work and sacrifices they bear for our great motherland.
We should use Labour Day not only to celebrate the achievements of our workers but to reflect on their conditions of service and come up with tangible and practical solutions to address their plight.
It is common knowledge that our workers are beset with numerous challenges, from poor conditions of service, low wages to working in unsanitary and unsafe environment.
We call upon Government, Labour Unions and Employers to dialogue and find solutions to contentious issues such as the continued Wage Freeze, Retirement Age and lack of the implementation of the minimum wage by a number of stakeholders. We equally urge the Government to settle the pending payment of retirement benefits to so many of our retirees.
Today, Labour Day celebrations have lost their meaning because the bulk of our workers are poor. Many of them are living below the Living Wage and are finding it harder to meet their basic needs such as decent shelter, transport and food. Many of our workers are chained to ‘kaloba’ and are surviving on pay-slow. Even basic needs such as relish are purchased on credit. And many of them have no discretionary income for personal advancement as they live on a hand-to-mouth basis due to low wages.
The continued wage freeze coupled with the escalating cost of living and the depreciating of the Kwacha has contributed to the plight of workers.
A knowledgeable and motivated workforce is key to development hence it is incumbent upon Government and other stakeholders to ensure that all workers get a living wage and that they work in a conducive environment. We need to embark on a deliberate policy of training and retraining of our employees in order to equip them with modern skills and improve their efficiency and productivity.
It is not right for Government to continue imposing the Wage Freeze on poor workers. What Government should do is cut down on public expenditure by cutting down on the excessive emoluments Ministers and other Constitutional office holders are enjoying.
The Government should further reduce the Public Wage bill by reducing the number of Deputy Ministers; scrapping off irrelevant portfolios such as those of District Commissioners; cut down on unplanned expenditure and deal with the rampant corruption and theft of public resources.
We wish to reiterate our opposition to the proposed 65 year Retirement Age and we urge Government to dialogue with Labour Unions to resolve this impasse.
Further we implore the Government to come up with practical measures to curb casualization and ensure that all stakeholders strictly adhere to all labour laws by strengthening the Labour Inspectorate Wing.
Finally, it is imperative that a lasting solution is found with regards to the unpaid retirement benefits to many retirees. It is important for us as a nation to plan and budget for retirees a year or two before they actually retire to avoid the continued delays in payment of retirement packages.
It will take nothing but dialogue, foresight and commitment on the part of Government, Labour Unions and Employers to solve the plight of our worker.