By Robert Tapfumaneyi
THE National Union for Tobacco Industry and Allied Trades (NUTIAT) has demanded postponement of the 2020 tobacco marketing season until the end of the national lockdown period.
The union argues that this will give all the auction floors time to put in place adequate safety measures and protect employees from the dreaded coronavirus.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) announced the marketing season starts this Wednesday.
However, NUTIAT, a union representing more than 2 000 workers from various auction floors said the safety measures that had been put in place were not adequate to protect employees from COVID-19.
“As tobacco employees, we are concerned about our safety if auction floors are allowed to open when the country is still under national lockdown,” Tabuda Moyo, NUTIAT secretary-general told NewZimbabwe.com.
The five-week lockdown is expected to end Sunday.
“Opening up tobacco floors before end of lockdown could jeopardise the health of the workers, and with the absence of trade union leaders in the national COVID-19 task-force, I see coronavirus increases coming to the floors. So what we wish is that the selling and marketing season should wait until this lockdown is over.
“As trade unions, we are supposed to be monitoring and supervising the safety and well-being of employees, but we are not allowed to move in and inspect the floors before opening which is a serious disaster to the employees.
“The tobacco industry is very important as it brings foreign currency to the country and it’s very important for it to be functional, but with measures that protect employees,” Moyo said.
Meanwhile, the government Sunday announced that the TIMB must encourage all stakeholders to follow laid down guidelines to ensure self-discipline and smooth transactions at the auction floors.
“Self-discipline is for our safety and essential for our collective security as a nation,” Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said in a statement.
“Let us do all we can to tighten our protective and preventative measures so that we curb the unnecessary loss of lives.”