February 23, 2004

ZAMBIA: Unions warn of further protests

The Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and Federation of Free Trade Unions (FFTUZ) of Zambia have warned the government that the demonstrations against its tax policies will continue. In a message of gratitude to workers who had turned up in large numbers for the demonstration against increased Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and imposed wage freeze, their presidents, Leonard Hikaumba and Joyce Nonde respectively, stated that the workers' solidarity was a true reflection that an injustice anywhere was an injustice everywhere. "We wish to take this opportunity to warn all employers who have suspended workers for taking part in the protest to rescind their decision within three days, failure to which the labour movement will camp at their premises to ensure suspensions are lifted unconditionally," the duo stated.

They stated that the labour movement in Zambia remained committed, open to dialogue in efforts to move the country forward and equally demanded corresponding commitment and resolve by all Zambians. The duo stated that the labour movement would work with progressive Zambians who had the interests of workers at heart. They furthermore explained that workers were against increasing Pay As You Earn (PAYE) because they had carried the tax burden for too long without any corresponding relief, the need to reduce poverty as well as ensuring that workers were assured of the right to a decent life. "Workers have a history of enduring fruitless IMF and World Bank economic experiments which have crippled the economy and left many of our citizens impoverished and hence they have the right to question them." They also reminded the political leadership that government played a dual role of governance and employer.

According to the, the wage freeze had spilled over to other sectors and it was becoming difficult to negotiate because the issue had become a reference point or policy in collective bargaining. "Is it not absurd that government could increase judges' salaries while putting other workers on hold in the quest to reach HIPC completion point?" they asked. As they put it, the labour movement believed in the rule of law and did not prescribe to lawlessness and acts that could bring about anarchy and chaos in Zambia. They assured the Zambian workers that the struggle continued and that peaceful demonstrations would continue for as long as government gave a deaf ear to their demands and concerns.

Meanwhile, the Zamtel and Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZNCB) have lifted suspensions slapped on employees who joined the nation-wide demonstrations against Pay As You Earn and the imposed wage freeze.

Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel) acting director human resources Chilao Mutesa yesterday said management on Saturday February 21, 2004 had a meeting with the National Union of Communication Workers (NUCW) at which it was agreed to lift suspensions on 26 workers who joined demonstrations. (The Post, Lusaka)

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