Minister of Labour Fackson Shamenda has completely failed to handle labour matters resulting into all the ten public unions declaring a dispute with government for the first time since independence and must be fired, Zambian Voice executive director Chilufya Tayali has said.
But Mr Shamenda has said government would not be blackmailed by trade and that government was going to handle the failed salary negotiations with unions in a civil and sober manner devoid of acrimony and antagonism.
Mr Tayali said the country was at the verge witnessing the worst strike ever because government had failed to listen to the demands of workers which was likely to spark countrywide strikes.
Mr Tayali said the PF government had illegally decreed a wage freeze which had put the public workers in an economic precarious position and that it was not surprising that civil servants had rejected government’s position on their proposed new conditions of service.
He said it was unimaginable that the government could fail to listen to the plight of the workers when the Kwacha had continued to lose its value leading to the cost of living rising to unaffordable levels.
He recalled that for the first time in history, the PF government through Mr Shamenda and his counterpart at the Ministry of Health Joseph Kasonde had fired more than 500 nurses for demanding improved conditions of serviced and paralysed the health sector without remorse.
“Mr Shamemnda must be fired with immediate effect because he has messed up the ministry of Labour. We should get prepared for national wide strikes by the civil servants and knowing this government, they will arrogantly fire them because they do not care about the affairs of the country. They fired more than 500 nurses and verbally abused them by branding them criminal for only reminding government about its own pledges. This government has turned against workers and as if declaring an illegal wage freeze, they have deliberately caused the collapse of the bargaining process,’ Mr Tayali said.
Mr Tayali said the Kwacha was dying and government had paid no attention to the crumbling economy because the people with the mandate to govern had no idea of how best to run the country apart from looting the country’s limited purse.
But Mr Shamenda said civil servants would be abusing the strike option if they went on a countrywide work stoppage without exhausting all the channels available in the collective bargaining process.Mr Shamenda said any union worth its sort should avoid advocating for strikes because in every bargaining process, there a probability of winning or losing the bid.Mr Shamenda said it was wrong for the unions to adopt acrimony and threats of strikes as a mode of compelling government to listen to their demands adding it was unheard of to have a bargaining process where stakeholders could agree on everything tabled.
He said the unions had exhibited bad leadership by threatening that their members would resort to countrywide industrial unrest stating that government would be reluctant to take drastic measures against any worker who would go on strike.
“The unions have declared a collective dispute and they must exhaust all the channels such as reconciliation, arbitration and the court process before resorting to strikes. Strikes are the last resort after all the processes have been exhausted. As government, we shall not take the rout of acrimony and threats because we believe that we can still resolve this impasse amicably. So any union leader worth his sort should not start blackmailing government because we do not want to say that if they strike, they will be fired,’ Mr Shamenda said.