MWAPE MWESA, Solwezi
MAY 1 is every year celebrated as Labour Day, also known as â€œMay day or workers day.â€
It is a day when workers, regardless of the type of job one does, come together to rejoice over their achievements.
The workers also use the occasion to share the challenges they may have faced with their employers during the execution of their duties.
In Zambia, the 2015 Labour Day celebrations will be held under the theme â€˜Promoting National Economic Growth through Job Creation, Free Collective Bargaining and Respect for Workersâ€™ Rightsâ€™.
Looking at the theme, one would ask just how job creation, free collective bargaining and respect for workersâ€™ rights can promote national economic growth.
A North-Western Province senior labour officer, a Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) provincial co-ordinator, as well as the private sector provided varying answers.
ZCTU provincial co-ordinator Kameya Manjomba is happy with the 2015 Labour Day theme.
He says ZCTU recognises the important role that a worker plays in driving the economy of the country forward.
Mr Manjomba noted that the labour movement believes that the economy of any country can only grow when its citizens have jobs through which they can generate income instead of depending on handouts from Government for their survival.
â€œWe as ZCTU are happy with this yearâ€™s theme because it is in line with our expectations. We believe that economic growth can only be achieved through the creation of genuine jobs,â€ he said.
Mr Manjomba said the need to create jobs in both the formal and informal sectors cannot be over-emphasised because when local people are employed the country will have enough money to improve all sectors of the economy.
Charles Muwowo, a senior labour officer at the labour office in Solwezi, echoed Mr Manjombaâ€™s views.
He said the theme has come at an opportune time when Government is striving to create jobs by putting in place an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
â€œEconomic growth can only come if more Zambians have jobs because Government will be able to generate income from the many taxes that companies and individuals pay such as Pay As You Earn [PAYE], corporate tax and many others,â€ Mr Muwowo said.
Casualisation is said to be one of the many problems affecting workers in Zambia today and the practice remains a great concern to many stakeholders.
And Mr Manjomba has noted that casualisation cannot promote economic growth because casual workers do not have security of tenure for them to engage in long-term investment.
He said casualisation is very common in the private sector because most companies avoid paying benefits that are due to the workers on separation.
The employers have instead been resorting to engaging casual workers as a cost manage.
â€œWorking as a casual worker creates uncertainty and is very demotivating because you work with fear. You donâ€™t know when the task you have been engaged to perform will come to an end.â€ Mr Manjomba said.
He said there is need for Government to come up with guidelines and identify which industries should be allowed to engage casual workers.
â€œWhat we are seeing now is a situation where because someone wants to avoid paying benefits due to a worker, they will resort to engaging people on casual basis, which is unacceptable. We cannot allow companies such as the mines to engage people as casuals when they will be here for a long time.
â€œContractors such as those constructing schools, hospitals, roads and other projects can have casual workers because such works have a time frame attached, but not the mines,â€ Mr Manjomba said.
He said workers will pretend to work and not put in their best because they do not know their fate tomorrow.
But what is Government doing to address casualisation, which is said to be rampant, especially in the private sectors
Mr Muwowo said Government is working on legislation that will ban casualisation in the country in order to secure peopleâ€™s jobs.
He said once enacted into law it will be almost impossible to engage people such as security guards, drivers and cleaners on casual basis.
â€œOur ministry is working on a law to make it impossible for companies to continue using people as casual workers for more than six months because according to Section 3 of the Employment Act, chapter 268 of the Laws of Zambia, a person is not supposed to continue working as a casual employee after six months elapses, but this is what we are seeing happening,â€ Mr Muwowo said.
He said casual workers do not have certain entitlements a permanent worker enjoys; they do not have security of tenure as an employer can just wake up today and fire someone.
But Mr Muwowo believes with the coming of the new law it will be impossible to terminate employment at will.
He said as a measure aimed at addressing casualisation, there is need to strengthen the law on the issuance of work permits to foreigners, which he said is loose.
Mr Muwowo said as long as the law is not strict on foreign nationals, the country is sitting on a time bomb.
â€œWe need to strengthen the law on the issuance of work permits to foreign nationals, especially those coming to do jobs that even Zambians can do because if we donâ€™t we are sitting on a time bomb,â€ he said.
On the number of jobs the Patriotic Front administration has created since it took over office in 2011, Mr Muwowo said the ministry has no mechanism for monitoring job creation in the different sectors because companies are not mandated to report to the labour office when engaging people.
â€œAlthough there was a directive to our department by late President Michael Sata to monitor jobs being0 created, as labour officers we have no mechanism due to challenges such as inadequate funding, low staffing levels and lack of transport to enable us to conduct inspections,â€ he explained.
Irrespective of the nature of oneâ€™s job, security of tenure and respect from employers are important as they promote high productivity.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â ZANIS
MWAPE MWESA, Solwezi