ZCTU scrutinises AfCFTA as fears of labour rights violations escalate

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By Alois Vinga

THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has commenced work to scrutinise the implications of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) amid rising fears that the billion-dollar continental initiative may further worsen the workers plight.

AfCFTA is the brainchild of the African Union initiated in 2012 with the objective of establishing a single trading bloc which enjoys lowered trade barriers across the continent.

It is set to bring together the continent’s 55 nations, creating a total 1 billion customers for Africa’s goods and services through a lucrative $3.4 trillion Gross Domestic Product.

Trading under the new agreement commenced on January 1, 2021. However, some countries are still working on modalities to integrate their economies into the bloc.

Speaking to delegates at a ZCTU organised workshop discussing the impact of AfCFTA on the country’s working class recently, the federation’s leader, Florence Taruvinga stressed the need for labour to keep pace with the initiative for the good of the working class.

Taruvinga said Zimbabwe being a member of SADC, is part and parcel of The Preferential Trade Area with 22 Countries, the Economic Partnership Agreements, and is in other bi-lateral agreements over and above joining AfCFTA in 2020.

“Worrisomely, the impact of these initiatives on the working class is not felt. This has become an issue of concern amid observations that the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It is therefore time we should seek to scale up advocacy for a system in which everyone prospers.

“The big companies which own and control the means of production across the countries risk taking in more profits with little or no supervision of their labour rights performance, leaving a trail of impoverished workers,” she said.

Taruvinga said the trade opportunities are coming at a time when collective bargaining platforms are severely undermined to tackle emerging risks posing the potential for capitalists across the continent to escape accountability.

She added: “The governments make it difficult when they shut out labour in the agreements and yet they result in enforcing dependence which curb creation of sustainable decent employment. This is evidenced by the prevalence of the informal economy.

“Through this process of learning and analysing the AfCFTA and other agreements it is anticipated that Trade Union leaders will be able to quickly pick up issues at the sector negotiating platforms and ensure that ILSs are mainstreamed in the business models”.