ZCTU should think again

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WHEN trade unions become politicised and partisan or when their objectives become diametrically opposed to national interest, their justification becomes questionable.
On the other hand, when labour bodies concentrate on their core business of safeguarding the socio-economic welfare of workers vis-a-vis the prevailing environment, they become absolutely essential.
Regrettably, this is not always the case. Take for example the antagonism between trade unions and the UK Government in the 1970s.
With the Government determined to contain inflation, the trade unions’ main concern was huge salary increments, regardless. Here is a perfect example where the trade union interests were irreconcilably at variance with those of Government.
That is why when Margret Thatcher’s Conservatives came to power and labelled the unions ‘enemies within’, they were supported by the British electorate.
Surely, no rational electorate can be expected to support trade union advocacy for worker behaviour that infringes on their basic rights.
While the UK trade unions could be accused of being unrealistic in the quantum of their demands, it didn’t matter which political party was in power.
However, although some of their demands were outrageous, to their credit, they were doing it with the welfare of the worker, whom they felt was being exploited, at heart. This is very different from our own politicised Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).
They are partisan. They want ZANU PF, a party with a liberation background booted out and replaced by MDC, a party formed by white commercial farmers and other white employers.
Welfare of the workers can be referred to, only if it is to be used as a tool to discredit ZANU PF. When the nurses recently embarked on that ill-advised decision to go on strike, the ZCTU was quick to jump in. Apparently unconcerned by the dying abandoned patients, the so-called labour body callously appealed to the rest of the country to lay down their tools in sympathy with the nurses.
This way, they hoped industrial strife would lead to the downfall of the ZANU PF Government.
Having failed with nurses, they are now trying their luck with teachers.
This at a time President Emmerson Mnangagwa is talking about strengthening collective bargaining platforms for workers. But then, this does not tally with the interests of the ZCTU whose DNA is inextricably linked to the wishes of the white employer since its formation.
Concern about the fate of farm workers or shop-floor workers is only peripheral. This was sweet music to white employers and farmers when the labour body transformed into a political party in 1999.
That is why unusual things happened when employers and employees became strange bedfellows when the ZCTU called for job stay-aways.
What had been unheard of before was seeing employers encouraging their employees not to turn up for work.
They believed industrial strife would lead to the collapse of a Government formed by a former liberation movement.
This was not to be!
Indeed there has been a dramatic worker-employer paradigm shift since then.
With the vast majority of workers in self-employment, the ZCTU has lost influence in determining what course of action self-employed workers have to take.
This has seen their hope of forcing the revolutionary ZANU PF party to bow to industrial pressure go up in smoke.
We advise ZCTU to pay heed to President Mnangagwa’s statement to mark this year’s Workers Day.
Through the Tripartite Negotiating Forum, ZCTU should strive to improve workers’ conditions of service as opposed to encouraging illegal strikes.
The ZCTU should definitely think again.

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