Columnists Features

Casualisation disadvantages workers, offers no security

KONAYUMA

JUDITH KONAYUMA
THE casualisation of employees has offered some private companies a quick solution to their shortage of staff. It has been the best option for some firms to cut the salary budget.
Some job seekers have found themselves getting temporary jobs out of desperation. The job market is shrinking every year, making opportunities thinner.
With the high cost of living, people want to earn some money and support their families. They are bound to get any offer that comes their way, if it is only to earn ‘something’.
Every year, colleges and universities offload hundreds of graduates from their institutions. The graduates, fresh with a zeal to find jobs, traverse the length and breadth of cities, getting in and out of offices in search of work.
At the most, all they get is a response from the employer that he or she would get back to them, a response that is never honoured. They become part of the troop of job hunters.
It is apparent that some companies take advantage of the high rate of unemployment to offer the part-time jobs where an employee never enjoys the benefits of a full-time job.
While there is an urge for the desperate to earn a living,  government is putting an end to the practice of casualisation.
This is not to say that by taking this measure, government does not know the situation of job seekers. It is fully aware. In fact, it is stopping the practice for their sake.
Casual employment is an old practice in Zambia.  It is found in the mines, schools, both private and government, in private companies and on farms.
While for some entities like farms, it can be excusable for them to engage casual employees, it is unacceptable that some of them, private companies in particular, employ workers on a temporary basis for years and years.
By their position, casual employees are not permanent, they are seasonal. They are engaged for a  period of time under a fixed term of contract. When it expires, they can renew it or they exit, depending on the needs of the employer. In fact in some cases, they are employed as per need of the moment.
With such engagement by the employer, casual workers are denied conditions of service availed to full-time employees. They do not enjoy a number of allowances that are given to  full-time employees. For example, they will have no education, entertainment, medical or such other basic allowances.
Casual employees are normally on their own. In most companies, they are excluded from the  representation of trade unions, hence the absence of better conditions of service. They have no one to speak for them. They suffer abuse and their rights are abrogated.
In trying to improve the employment situation in as far as casual employees are concerned, government, in 2015, outlawed casual employment.  Then Minister of Labour Fackson Shamenda spearheaded the amendment of the Employment Act that made it illegal for any employer to engage an employee on a casual basis for any job that was of a permanent nature.
Given their position, part-time jobs offer no security. Employees on temporary basis stand a higher risk of losing employment for flimsy or unclear reasons. They can easily be fired or hired, and in some cases, without getting their benefits.
Government, in all this, has the employee in mind. The practice of casual employing is skewed in favour of the employer. While the employer makes a benefit and adds to his profit, the employee becomes poorer.  The improvement of conditions of service is the sole prerogative of the employer.
Minister of Labour Joyce Nonde recently warned that government was against engaging employees on a casual basis because they were denied access to opportunities like loans by the banking sector.
Banks want an assurance that their money is safe and that safety can only be found in an employee who is on a stable job. Casual employees, even though they get more money, will be disadvantaged.
Employees like teachers, nurses and other government workers have been able to build houses or put up some projects with bank loans because they are on a permanent basis.
Government wants to place employees on the same plane. An employee should be able to make use of their job to create wealth for themselves and the nation.
Employees on a temporary basis are cut off from participating in national development in this way. It is time they were brought on board and feel that they are making an impact in their contribution to national development.
The author, Judith Konayuma, is Sunday Mail editor.

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