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NGO workers need union representation

By GADY MUSEKA
THERE are many challenges those who work for local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) face.
NGOs have employed many Zambians and we appreciate the role they play in supplementing Government’s efforts to uplift the standards of living in communities.
However, there is a need for some NGOs to be transparent and respect their workers’ rights.
To ensure that the rights of those who are disregarded or vulnerable in NGOs are respected, there is a serious need to ensure that workers have union representation.
I wonder why those who work for NGOs cannot come together and push for union representation.
There is need to forge alliances with trade unions so that all NGO workers are represented.
This will enable them to effectively contribute to the social and economic development of this nation.
NGOs should allow their workers to join trade unions of their choice.
Many employees of these organisations have lost employment and benefits on flimsy grounds without any redress.
Some work in poor conditions because there is no-one to speak for them in terms of union representation.
As someone who has worked for international NGOs for many years, I feel NGO workers need union representation.
A union is an important channel of communication between management and the workers.
At the moment, what is happening is that whatever management decides regardless of how it affects workers, there is no-one to come to the aid of the workers because even the labour inspectors in our country don’t thoroughly check on how employers are mistreating workers.
resistance by management of NGOs to have its workers belong to the unions of their choice is a source of serious concern. In most cases NGO bosses are unwilling to negotiate and grant long-  term improvements in wages and conditions and as such they don’t want anything to do with unions to represent the interest of workers.
We are all alive to the fact that both trade unions and NGOs are major actors in the improvement of our economy.
The world-over, trade union campaigns on workers’ rights, women’s’ rights and wellbeing of all workers. NGO workers in Zambia don’t have union representation.
I am happy that there has been an increase in reported cases of sexual harassment of women.
Historically, trade unions in Zambia have dependably defended their members’ interests and the wellbeing of people and society as a whole.
Trade unions legitimately serve the interests of society in general,
They should extend this protection to the workers of NGOs as well.
Let all the workers throughout the country who are affected by any form of harassment report such cases to relevant authorities.
The reports should, of course, be backed by evidence; not just maligning people without any proof.
Otherwise, all workers must know their rights at places of work and report any wrongdoing such as bribery, corruption, dishonesty, harassment and threats of violence, which are all criminal offences in Zambia.
I have heard of people who fail to report wrong-doing for fear of losing their jobs.
Please, note that as long as you have evidence, you need to report to the relevant authority.
The media and the government will protect such a one from losing their job.
Let the Ministry of Labour and Social Security intensify inspections of work places so that many cases of wrong-doing can be brought to their attention.
Many people who are involved in such wrong-doing will eventually stop because they will be afraid of being exposed.
As NGO workers, our cry to the government is to help us have union representation.
Let no-one lose their job for reporting wrong-doing.
There is one case I would like to bring to the attention of the public.
I hope and trust the Ministry of Labour, Zambia Congress of Trade unions, NGOCC, Media and others interested in protecting the workers’ rights will consider this case and ensure that justice is done.
The author is outgoing finance officer for Plan International Zambia,
Kabwe. gadymuseka@yahoo.com

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