By Alois Vinga
ZIMBABWE is among the world’s 10 worst countries for employees, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)’s 2019 global rights index has revealed.
It is the first time since independence that Zimbabwe has been bracketed among countries that are seen as hostile to unionism.
According to the index, Zimbabwe joins countries like Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
“Brazil and Zimbabwe are in the ten worst countries for the first time, with the adoption of regressive laws, violent repression of strikes, protests, threats and intimidation of union leaders,” ITUC general secretary, Sharan Burrow said.
The index observed that in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president, Peter Mutasa and general secretary, Japhet Moyo were taken into custody on 21 and 25 January 2019 and charged with subversion for “mobilising the nation to participate in anti-fuel hike protests”.
It is noted that the ITUC-Africa general secretary, who had travelled to meet with the ZCTU leadership and the Zimbabwean Ministry of Labour, was later arrested in his hotel room and arbitrarily detained at Harare International Airport.
“This year, Zimbabwe fell into a pattern of violent attacks against workers and trade union members. Protests organised by ZCTU on 14-16 January 2019 against a 150% fuel price hike were repressed by state security forces with live ammunition.
“Twelve workers were killed and 70 sustained gunshot wounds. In total, over 320 persons were injured, while accounts of severe beatings and torture by government forces were reported to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission,” the report reads in part.
It noted that while the ZCTU leaders were released from custody a few days later, they remained under strict release conditions, banned from travelling and forced to check in regularly at the police station while Moyo was even forced to give up the deed to his personal home as a guarantee against skipping bail.
Workers in countries within Zimbabwe’s category are unlikely to get decent salaries, jobs and meaningful protection from the law hence largely fall under the working poor category.
The index says that a significant number of African trade union leaders were arbitrarily arrested and detained in 2019.
“Attempts by countries to silence their people in an age of anger against corporations, politicians and governments who have failed to deliver for workers are on the rise,” Burrow observed.
The report comes at a time Zimbabwean workers are struggling to make ends meet due to increasing inflation nearing 100% which has eroded workers salaries.
Most civil servants have demanded salaries in foreign currency but the government has indicated this is unsustainable.
Threats of job action loom across the economy and among government workers.