Govt, Unions cross paths
For the first time in as many years, the country’s rival labour unions, the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), have ganged-up against government in resisting the registration of a third labour movement.
This follows the registration of the Zimbabwe Industrial Revolution Workers’ Federation (ZIRWF) by government despite spirited objections from ZCTU and ZFTU. ZIRWF is a culmination of the split in ZFTU that followed months of internal bickering within the union, itself a splinter of ZCTU — the country’s largest labour movement. It is headed by Pascal Eikem Chakanetsa, a war veteran and former secretary-general of ZFTU.
Despite lodging their objections through renowned labour lawyer, Timothy Makings, government proceeded to grant ZIRWF a licence to operate. The ZCTU is not giving up on its challenge.It has since escalated the issue to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) saying the government was employing double standards.
ZCTU secretary-general, Japhet Moyo, said it was duplicitous for government to register a dubious federation while denying the same treatment to bona fide applications. He gave the example of workers at Bata who have been struggling to get their union registered. ZFTU secretary general, Kennias Shamuyarira, concurred with Moyo, saying the newly-registered federation was a creation of failed trade unionists who did not want to conform to labour standards.
ZIRWF believes that the ZCTU’s objections via ILO were out of order because the latter was disrespecting domestic laws by citing ILO conventions instead of provisions in the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01). ZIRWF also argued that it had no obligation to prove to other unions that it had affiliate unions, adding that the ZFTU had failed to engage in any activity to benefit the workers.
The Registrar in the Ministry of Labour, Grace Kanyai, in accepting the registration of the ZIRWF in April this year, said the two already existing federations only catered for 51 registered unions among them, leaving 71 other unions not affiliated to any national centre.
Labour specialist and arbitrator, Zakeyo Mtimtema, said despite it being their right enshrined in Section 65 of the Constitution, ZIRWF’s registration was not of any benefit to the workers, but a ploy by government to further divide unions. He said while workers’ unions are multiplying, the employers’ federation has remained intact, despite the differences they might have. Another labour expert and lawyer, Rodgers Matsikidze, observed that the new federation was registered for the sole purpose of diluting the power of workers.
(The Financial Gazette/Harare)