Coward union leaders, let-downs

CALLING ‘a spade a spade’ is often a huge challenge for most people.
B u t a s courageous as she has been, reputed Minister of Labour and Social Security Joyce Nonde Simukoko called a spade a spade when she described labour leaders who fail to protect workers’ rights as cowards.
The minister advised that there was no place for cowardice in union politics and that the labour movement should remain vigilant in ensuring that employers complied with labour laws.
The minister was speaking to labour leaders at Gourock in Ndola after a joint inspection of the plant with Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB) and National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA) officials. She observed that the work environment was poor and did not meet expected health and safety standards.
The minister called on investors to respect the laws of Zambia after noting that workers were subjected to a poor environment, and that labour leaders were not doing enough to protect the interests of workers.
We agree with the minister that elements of cowardice in union politics should not be entertained otherwise, labour laws will be flouted. Flouting of laws regarding Workers Compensation is even to some extent a good example that can cited to give readers an idea of the size of this problem. For instance, the Workers’ Compensation Act No. 10 of 1999 of the Laws of Zambia section 145 provides that “Every employer, when so required by the commissioner, shall cause to be affixed and at all times to be kept affixed in a conspicuous place where that employer’s workers are employed a clearly printed summary, in a form and language as the commissioner may require, of the procedure laid down in this Act for the recovery of compensation in the event of an accident”.
And that any employer who fails to comply with the provisions of section 145 commits an offence.
This requirement is clearly not respected and from the joint inspections on the Copperbelt so far conducted at Mopani Copper Mines, Ndola Lime and Gourock, an inference can be made to the effect that there is no compliance.
The situation at the companies so far visited clearly gives a general impression of what is obtaining elsewhere in industry hence the need for continuous joint inspections to reach out to all stakeholders on labour laws especially matters to do with compensation.
We believe that life is not negotiable and that when workers are employed to provide a service, they must be protected against risks of occupational injury or disease.
They must also be informed on what protection options are available for them.
The labour movement is a key stakeholder and as the minister observed, the responsibility falls on their shoulders to advance interests of workers including matters of compensation, which we feel are receiving less attention.
The world of work has moved towards an injury-free society and it will take the interests of labour leaders to champion this cause hence our inclination to support the minister on her call to the union to be vigilant.
As readers may note best labour practice demands that workers are kept abreast of all labour laws and education remains a key ingredient.
As long as workers are not informed on what must happen for them to access compensation in the event an occupational injury or disease, investors will continue to flout the laws of our country. Workers also need to know their entitlements in the conditions of service and how to access their retirement benefits.
Our joint inspections are expected to continue on the Copperblet until April 26, 2018 after which we will avail the principles and golden rules of the vision zero campaign that we are currently running to encourage employers to join the fight against employment-related injuries and diseases.
As far as we are concerned, injuries and diseases at work places should be eliminated by 2030 as long as we uphold the key principles that underpin the vision.
It is important to understand that life is indeed not negotiable, and that people make mistakes but mistakes should not cost life.
We believe that the joint inspection initiative will provide a perfect opportunity for us to reach many employers with information on the campaign and that industry will embrace and support the campaign. For the sake of first time readers, vision zero is a global campaign originated by the International Social Security Association to eliminate occupational accidents and diseases totally.
It was launched at the World Congress on Health and Safety in Singapore last year and will be rolled out on the continent of Africa this year.
The author is head – communications & customer S e r v i c e s at Wo r k e r s ’ compensation Fund Control Board
Email: mnkholomba@ workers.com.zm
Tel: 0211621283

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