March 2, 2005

Five unions form coalition

In the meantime, five public sector workers unions have formed a coalition to press for better salaries and conditions of service from the Government during the on-going negotiations. The Zambia National Union of Teachers (ZNUT), Civil Servants and Allied Workers Union of Zambia (CSAWUZ), Secondary Education Teachers Union of Zambia (SESTUZ), the Basic Education Teachers Union (BETUZ) and the Public Service Workers Union resolved to join hands in demanding for better salaries. Alliance chairperson, Leonard Hikaumba, said that although negotiations were still going on, the unions were not happy with the offers by the Government especially that there was a wage clip in 2004. According to Hikaumba, who is also CSAWUZ and Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president, Government claimed that it could not manage the proposed salaries by the public workers because the ministry of Finance had already passed the budget to parliament. He accused Government of deliberately refusing to conclude the negotiations before the budget was prepared so that it could use it as an excuse for not giving better salaries to its people. He said it was regrettable that labour unions in the country were not consulted before the budget was made, as they were equally stakeholders who deserved an input. "We expected a compassionate salary increase for the people this year especially that we sacrificed last year in ensuring that the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) completion point was met," Hikaumba stressed.
According to him, the unions were not impressed by Government's uniform response to all of them despite belonging to different bodies and having different collective agreements. Hikaumba announced that leaders from the five unions would soon be going round to consult their members and brief them about the answers Government was giving to the demands for better salaries. Hikaumba explained that the massive decision to be taken by the unions was to send a message to Government on the need to respect workers' rights. "We wanted the negotiations to be concluded before the budget, but Government delayed the process to this time when they are using the same budget as an excuse," he mourned. (The Times of Zambia, Ndola)

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