Editor's Comment

Enforce labour laws

GOVERNMENT has demonstrated its commitment to create a conducive labour market where the rights of workers are protected and jobs created.
Government has also created a conducive environment in which a labour market with an inclusive social protection system and social dialogue is thriving.
To do this, Government, together with its social partners, has been implementing an ambitious and absolutely necessary programme to reform the employment and labour sector.
This has culminated in the implementation of the first and second generation of the decent work country programmes.
These have culminated into amendments and improvements to some pieces of legislation and regulations.
This has also seen the enactment of the employment code aimed at promoting the decent work agenda by improving social protection and strengthening employment rights and obligations.
The code has seen the outlawing of casualisation of jobs of permanent nature. Curtailing casualisation is also aimed at providing decent conditions of employment.
This has included extending social security coverage to domestic workers, bus and taxi drivers, sawmillers, marketeers and small-scale farmers.
While Government has demonstrated its desire to level the playing field in the labour market, challenges such as casualisation of labour, low wages, poor adherence to safety and health conditions, as well as low social security coverage among the informal economy workers have persisted.
That is why President Edgar Lungu noted yesterday that the policy and legal framework governing the employment and labour sector is still inadequate.
President Lungu has indicated that Government will enforce compliance by recruiting labour inspectors.
Labour inspectors will be going round workplaces to ensure that all employers ranging from corporates to individuals are following the law.
There are a lot of employers at farms, in supermarkets and proprietors of restaurants in markets, bus and taxi operators who are deliberately flouting the law.
As a result, workers direct their anger at Government for seemingly ignoring their plight.
We hope that the Ministry of Finance will expedite granting the Ministry of Labour and Social Security treasury authority to engage labour inspectors, whose role will be to ensure that they begin work of ensuring compliance.
But labour inspectors alone will not succeed if the workers do not report employers who are not complying with the law.
Government needs the help of workers as whistle-blowers in reporting erring employers.
There are employees working long hours, working without safety attire and putting full shifts during weekends and public holidays but are not adequately remunerated.
Despite the ban of casualisation, some employers have devised other schemes of evading the law.
They capitalise on desperation by citizens’ lack of employment and poverty to perpetuate casualisation.
This country has seen the emergence of employment agents at corporate and individual levels engaging workers on behalf of employers, some of whom seem unwilling to comply with labour laws.
Labour inspectors are surely aware about such rogue employers but evidently not much is being done to bring the culprits to book.
Such lukewarm treatment of those that flout labour laws raises suspicions that some of these inspectors are compromised by the employers.
We know that there are some inspectors of integrity, but in whatever sector there are bad eggs and it is these advocates of quick money that the country must watch closely.
It is a wonder too if the labour office makes follow-ups on concerns raised by workers.
There are often whistle-blowers who expose shortcomings but if they don’t see any action taken, they get discouraged and a possible crime is perpetuated.
While it is true that it is not concerns raised by whistle-blowers that are actually crimes, it would be good to acknowledge receipt and encourage the vigilant workers to be alert.

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