In a statement to review 2019 and to give the Union’s prospects for 2020, Mr Nkole advised Zambian workers to be united in demanding decent jobs and pay.
“I wish to take this opportunity to thank workers for their tireless efforts to continue developing this country despite the harsh conditions they have been subjected to. As we cross into another tough year, the stakes have never been higher for workers, unions, and people who believe in a just economy and a decent country. The employer of today has relentlessly undercut worker’s bargaining power, triggering an explosive rise in inequality, poverty and deprivation,” Mr Nkole said.
“The environment surrounding workers will even be more difficult in 2020 and I want to urge workers to be more militant and more united than ever before. We would like to urge all our members to enter 2020 with the same amount of vigilance in order to effectively drive the agenda of decent jobs. Workers will not accept conditions from employers which will worsen their suffering.”
He said workers have sacrificed enough for Zambia and they cannot continue sacrificing while the benefits are being enjoyed by only a few minority in society.
“The ZCTU will continue to promote productivity among workers so that the development agenda is kept on course as well as ensure that there is harmony on the industrial relations stage,” Mr Nkole said.
In reviewing 2019, he said the year was “disappointing, frustrating and demoralising” to the workers.
“The continued economic meltdown with its attendant factors of fuel increases, rising cost of food, increasing electricity tariffs and many others impacted negatively on the welfare of workers. We hope that workers will be paid their bonuses and other necessary remuneration after such a difficult year.
We are saying 2019 was a difficult year because the economy continued on a trajectory of job losses without creating new ones, the gap between the rich and power continued widening and we saw deepening poverty everywhere,” Mr Nkole said.“We also saw Government announcing austerity measures which only culminated in government being on the offensive, attacking our hard working nurses, teachers, police officers, cleaners and other workers for wanting to earn a decent wage in the midst of austerity measures. This did not only make collective bargaining difficult but sent us a signal that we have to get ready for a difficult 2020 in the public service, if the National Treasury’s position is anything to go by.”
The ZCTU further condemned the hiking of electricity tariffs and fuel pump prices by the Energy Regulation Board.
“We wish to take this opportunity to condemn the increased fuel prices effected by Government a few days ago. It is ridiculous for ERB and Government to increase fuel prices at this time of the year when everyone is complaining about the high cost of living. We know the spiral effect fuel increases can have on the cost of other basic needs. This Government should not push people against the wall. The patience of the people should not be taken for granted. How will people survive?” Mr Nkole asked.
He further said the Union does not agree with the directive by President Edgar Lungu to slash salaries of senior government officers and heads of parastatal organisations because this will not provide a solution to the many economic difficulties that are being faced by the majority.
“Apart from being an illegal move because the Head of State cannot unilaterally cut salaries of individual, this will not address the suffering of the people. Will the cutting of salaries for targeted individuals reduce the increased price of fuel, address the high taxes, lower the price of mealie-meal price, stop the looming electricity tariff hike and provide a solution to the country’s high indebtedness? The answer is a big NO,” Mr Nkole said.
“What is needed is to hold a National Economic Indaba, where various stakeholders can debate the different economic challenges and come up with solutions on how the country’s economy can be put back on course. This is serious matter which should not be taken lightly by making political pronouncements meant to appease the masses.”
And the ZCTU has welcomed the deferment of the controversial Bill 10 to next year.
“As you may be aware, the Constitution Amendment Bill 2019, also known as Bill no.10, has become an emotive issue with some sections of society advocating for its withdrawal because of the negative contents contained in it,” Mr Nkole said.