The finger pointing between the Minister of Labour Fackson Shamenda and the Zambia Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) is definitely not good for industrial harmony in Zambia.
If this blame game is not handled properly, it may have grave consequences on the stability of the labour market as it has not clear winner.
While the Government has its own reasons for declaring a wage freeze in the public service, the ZCTU’s anger is also understandable as there was no prior consultation before the announcement was made.
As former ZCTU president, Mr Shamenda is the last person who should plead ignorance on issues of labour and procedures aimed at maintaining industrial harmony.
He knows that in Zambia, there exists the Tripartite Labour Council which comprises employers’ representatives, the employees’ representatives who are the trade unions and Government as the referee in Labour matters.
Apart from having attended the Tripartite Labour Council meeting as ZCTU president, Mr Shamenda in his new portfolio has officiated at such meetings as guest of honour.
Mr Shamenda knows that it is at such meetings that employees and employers agree on how to move forward in labour matters while Government provides guidance on how to resolve possible dispute.
This was not done before Government announced the wage freeze.
Workers and trade unions were stunned when Minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda presented the 2014 national budget and announced the measure.
Had Government prepared the labour movement for the imposition of the wage freeze, nothing of what is happening could have surfaced.
But it is not too late for Government to remedy the situation or cool tempers of the workers who were and are still expecting a salary increment.
The cardinal question that Government should answer is what is in the treasury for workers in future?
Obviously, the workers wouldn’t take it if the only gift Government has is Mr Shamenda’s threat of a wage freeze until 2017 if the union leaders continue criticizing his mishandling of labour matters?
Mr Shamenda should come down to earth and provide convincing answers to labour questions.
Cabinet did not just impose the wage freeze but whoever proposed the measure had convincing reasons which necessitated the suspension.
The Government’s reasoning is what we would have expected Mr Shamenda to take to the Tripartite Labour Council meeting.
This is not to say that the Trade Unions will take that explaination as gospel truth whatever reasoning Government will take to the table.
The unions also arrived at their demands after what they may term careful consideration of the obtaining economic environment.
But this stand-off will not be wished away but must be confronted by Government and trade unions for an amicable solution to be found.