Civil servants should not trust the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) which has a record of betraying their members when dismissed on account of industrial action.
Civil rights activist Brebner Changala has charged that ZCTU has lost its relevance of protecting the interest of civil servants in the country.
In an interview, Mr. Changala said inciting workers to join illegal countrywide demonstrations to force Government to rescind its decision on the wage freeze was criminal and aimed at sending the remaining workforce into destitution after being fired.
He accused ZCTU of planning to betray the workers just like they did to over 500 University Teaching Hospital (UTH) nurses who were fired after going on strike last year.
Mr. Changala advised workers against trusting ZCTU because it had no capacity to protect the workers’ interest.
“Inciting workers to strike or demonstrate will just push them into more misery than they are facing now. ZCTU in its current form cannot show leadership because it is weak and has no capacity to effectively speak and represent the workers’ concerns,” said Mr. Changala.
He said it was sad that ZCTU had created a trap for the workers to be fired when they demonstrate, adding that the labour movement leadership had no heart for the workers.
Mr. Changala expressed shock over ZCTU secretary general Roy Mwaba’s statement threatening Government with countrywide demonstrations and protests when they have in the past failed to resolve the impasse between workers and Government.
“Over the years, Zambia’s working class has seen ZCTU becoming weak in managing labour matters and disputes and the current wage freeze debate has further exposed its weakness and incapacity,” he said.
Mr Changala said public service workers have not forgotten how ZCTU and its affiliates failed to provide direction and leadership to nurses who eventually lost their jobs – a sad experience in the history of the labour movement.
“Had the ZCTU provided leadership then, the situation would have been different for the nurses. It will be highly suicidal for public service workers to place their fate in the hands of the current crop of union leaders because when there is trouble, they (public service workers) will be left alone languishing in the cold. ZCTU definitely fails this test! If ZCTU failed to protect the nurses when things got bad, what would make public service workers to believe they have union leaders to stand with and for them through thick and thin?”
Mr. Changala said the best solution was to overhaul the current ZCTU leadership in order to change the way the labour movement was working.
“The current ZCTU needs a complete overhaul. ZCTU must change its leadership guard, discard those who have overstayed their welcome and bring on board progressive forces that will advance interests of the working class and the poor,” he said.
Mr Changala claimed that at the moment ZCTU was in the hands of the rich whose interest was to enrich themselves further at the expense of the workers.
“The bourgeois have reduced the labour movement’s agenda to ping pong and as such auctioned it to capitalist elements within society with misplaced agendas. They are falling prey to mouth-pieces of capital who masquerade as friends of the working class and the poor. ZCTU needs fresh minds which understand that wage demands should be sustainable and take into account market and other economic conditions,” he said.
Mr. Changala called for a repositioned ZCTU which would appreciate the increased, complicated and challenging global and domestic economic environment.
He said a repositioned ZCTU was unavoidable in improving the labour movement’s contribution to national development and promotion of responsible trade unionism in Zambia.
Mr. Changala warned that ZCTU was not a political party and as such union leaders should desist from using the union as a platform to advocate their political inclination or promoting frustrated and well-known agendas.