ZIMBABWE joins the rest of the world today in celebrating Workers’ Day amid a lot of uncertainty on the country’s economic front.
According to the International Labour Organisation, May 1 commemorates a time of civil unrest in the late 19th Century when workers in industrialised countries demonstrated for improved working conditions and better wages.
They also demonstrated for the establishment of a maximum working day and week.
Most of the protests were stopped through brute force. A lot has since changed then with the rights of workers being enshrined in law.
The majority of workers throughout the world now have the right to withdraw their labour if they are not happy with remuneration or working conditions.
However, this is not to say workers today have nothing to worry about. In the case of Zimbabwe, the majority of workers have to contend with employers who have the audacity to go for several months without paying them.
The majority of Zimbabwe’s workers have for a long time been denied a living wage, which some estimate at over $550 a month.
Unfair labour practices are still rampant with some employers taking advantage of the poor economic situation in the country.
In most scenarios, workers are at the mercy of the employer because workers’ unions have been weakened.
It has always been argued that the biggest organised labour body – the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) — has drowned itself in politics and lost its voice in the process.
Some unions such as the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) have emerged seeking to fill the void created by ZCTU’s political thrust but they too have fallen into the same trap.
This has left many workers despondent and thus celebration of Workers’ Day today may be very low key.
Workers need to use this day to reflect on what has gone wrong over the years with organised labour and restrategise.
ZCTU and ZFTU should use the day to do some self-introspection on whether they are still doing what they should do for their members.
The Zimbabwean worker is still longing for a fair working environment and adequate remuneration.