Labour Minister Fackson Shamenda is a biased referee in labour matters, Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Leonard Hikaumba has charged.
Mr Hikaumba said it was clear that the labour minister was siding with government even during salaries and conditions of service negotiations.
He was reacting to Mr Shamenda’s remarks that the unions in Zambia were dead and had poor negotiating skills.
Mr Hikaumba said ZCTU would support workers if they decided to call for a national wide strike because it was their right.
He said the Minister of Labour was supposed to be neutral during government and public service workers unions’ negotiations.
The ZCTU president said unions were alive and that he totally disagreed with the minister’s remarks that the workers’ representative bodies were dead.
“If we go by what the minister said that the unions are dead because we have not unionised 100 per cent and that we still have workers who are being exploited then it means the unions died a long time ago before some of us took the leadership of ZCTU,” Mr Hikaumba said.
Mr Shamenda is former ZCTU president having assumed the position in 1991.
Mr Hikaumba said Mr Shamenda must understand that ZCTU was now much stronger than during his time.
“We expected Mr Shamenda to have come out in the open condemning government’s decision of introducing the wage freeze but he did not,” he said.
Mr Hikaumba urged government to lift the wage freeze as it was illegal.
He said it was unfair for government to allege that unions did not consult them on their displeasure over the wage freeze.
“When there was an indication that there was going to be a two-year wage freeze, government never consulted us, so the minster should not start talking about consultation now,” Mr Hikaumba said.
He said ZCTU had planned a peaceful demonstration soon after the wage freeze was announced but the Zambia Police Service could not allow them.
And Gemstone Allied Workers Union of Zambia (GAWUZ) president Sifuniso Nyumbu said the wage freeze was totally unacceptable because it was setting a bad precedence on private firms.
“The government is giving the private sector a very bad example because they have failed to negotiate with their workers and resorted into introducing an illegal wage freeze,” he said.
Mr Nyumbu who is also ZCTU committee member said it would be difficult for the private sector to negotiate for salaries and condition of service for their workers if government failed to lead by example.