Workers Day Still Important As Ever in Zimbabwe

The Workers' Day holiday, a holiday weekend this year, is the annual point when we need to concentrate on the needs, desires and aspirations of workers, generally those in employment although many of the required social and other services need to include the self-employed.

May 1 was set aside across large swathes of the world from 1889 as international labour day although the name has been nationalised in most countries.

But it remains a common holiday across most of the world with most of the world's workers able to take the day off.

Zimbabwe joined the international movement just after independence and has since kept the commemorations going, in various forms.

A lot of the early work was cleaning up the colonial statute book and that entailed largely extending the well-established rights of the small number of skilled white workers to the overwhelming majority in employment.

This needed adjustment over the decades, and a new amendment is now before Parliament, as loopholes were plugged, new circumstances were taken into account and the like. The primary requirement of good labour law was fairness, both to employee and employer, but remembering that generally speaking the employer holds the cards.

Far more important in many respects was the need for a whole new concept of industrial relations. The idea that employees were interchangeable components in a commercial process, and could be hired and fired with the same ease as a lathe or a truck or a till could be bought or sold had to go.

On the other hand frequent wild-cat strikes and labour unrest were just as likely to wreck the source of the wealth and smash growth.

So we built something that was far better than either, with its national industrial councils hammering out the agreements, and these then being given the force of law, and systems whereby the councils and the Government could step in to referee disputes.

Workers committee and works councils have become so normal that many cannot remember other systems. But the employment councils and the works councils do not all work with the same level of efficiency and even the same level of proper acceptance.

In some enterprises things do work well, and both management and staff can push in the same direction, everyone agreeing that business has to be done better, but the fruits of that improvement reasonably fairly spread. In other cases employers care less.

This was part of the message President Mnangagwa was stressing in his Workers Day message.

Employers needed to understand fully that a lot of the general improvement in their businesses in the last four years were not just the result of the general clean-up of the economy by the Government but the efforts put in by the workforce so businesses could take advantage of that.

Smarter businesses had already accepted that they had survived the bad times because of that effort.

But the President was careful, in thanking workers for these efforts, to remind their employers that improved business meant that their staff were entitled to their share, through improved salaries, wages and welfare. And with real growth now being seen in the economy that means real growth in employee benefits. The two go together in all fairness.

The real deal in workplaces must be that as capacity utilisation rises, productivity grows and the business expands, everyone contributes to this, and everyone benefits from it, climbing the ladder together towards that upper middle-income economy which basically means most people become upper middle income if it is to mean anything.

The Government, while not running business, still has a crucial role to play, both as the setter of the systems that work in labour and economics, but also to ensure that rights are preserved and that other services are in place to consolidate gains, even when global conditions are not that wonderful.

One important part of these efforts has been re-establishing a rational public transport system that is both affordable and safe. Despite the rise in private vehicle ownership most still need to use public transport.
Workers Day Still Important As Ever in Zimbabwe
Workers Day Still Important As Ever in Zimbabwe
So President Mnangagwa's pressure on Zupco to justify the major investments Government is making by continually improving its services, and not just being satisfied with the basics, is welcome.

One interesting point in other Government interventions is that the determination to keep fuel prices under control at least by reducing taxes on petroleum imports is helping, both businesses and those in buses and private cars, with Zupco continuing to have priority for local-currency fuel.

Inflation is a serious problem still. While nothing like the sort of mess we have seen in the past, progress in reducing it to very low levels is very slow, and this worries the President just as it worries most economists who think straight.

When we fixed the fundamentals in our economy, and President Mnangagwa, with expert advice, drove a process after taking office that did put Government finances on a sound footing with high levels of discipline for the first time since independence, it was expected the rest would slot into place.

It has, to a degree, but there are still mindsets and sentiment among the honest and deliberate manipulation and skulduggery among the dishonest that are slowing this down. The dishonesty can and is being tackled, but it also requires some much clearer thinking among the honest majority to accept we are now "normal".

Admittedly both the Government and a good swathe of the private sector are trying to help workers cope with inflation, but this can detract from the over-reaching requirement to improve standards of living, easy to measure with low inflation.

So Workers Day is and remains important, as the annual point each year when we concentrate our attention on how we are progressing, how fairly we are moving forward, with growth needing to be fair as well as actually present, and how we should correct deviations and how we should keep on the road.

Read the original article on The Herald.

AquAmanzi Borehole Drilling Is One Of Zimbabwe’s Leading Borehole Drilling Companies Specialising In Borehole Siting, Borehole Drilling and Borehole Installations.

WhatsApp: +263 77 460 7351
Address: 16911 Old SPCA Complex Unit 2,Seke Road, Graniteside.