Zimbabwe’s Workers’ Day Echoes Calls for Economic Justice

Labor Unions Label May 1 as 'Slave Day', Decry Poor Pay and Conditions Amidst National Economic Struggles

by Adenike Adeodun

On May 1, 2024, Zimbabwe’s Workers’ Day, which has traditionally been a day of celebrating labor achievements and workers’ rights, took on a much different tone. Various labor unions referred to it as “Slave Day” due to the harsh reality of poor pay and deteriorating working conditions prevailing in the country, which echoed a national sentiment of despair instead of celebration.

Workers’ Day, established in 1889 by the International Socialist Congress, has historically symbolized workers’ struggles and victories worldwide. However, in Zimbabwe, the day has transformed into an annual reflection of ongoing economic hardships, with union leaders voicing the frustrations and challenges that workers face in various sectors.

Michael Kandukutu, the national organizer for the Zimbabwe Congress for Trade Unions (ZCTU), lamented the lost significance of Workers’ Day, describing it as a day of mourning rather than celebration. “We used to have Workers’ Day celebrations maybe 15 years ago, but now it is just commemorations of employees’ problems. It is a lamentation day for workers’ problems,” said Kandukutu. He highlighted the irony of workers struggling to afford the very products they produce, a stark indicator of the inadequate wages that fail to meet basic living costs.

Raymond Majongwe, Secretary-General of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, expressed his discontent with the government’s neglect of teachers. “Salaries have gone down, conditions of service have not improved, and it’s indeed an insult to us,” Majongwe stated, underscoring the demoralization felt by educators in the country. He captured the sentiment of his peers: “May Day is a day we are supposed to celebrate, but we cannot celebrate slavery.”

David Dzatsunga, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions, echoed similar sentiments. He contrasted the situation in Zimbabwe with other countries where public service is often associated with respectable earnings. “In other countries, when you are in public service, working for the government, you are up there in terms of earnings. But in Zimbabwe, it’s different; we have become a laughing stock,” Dzatsunga remarked.

The plight of journalists was brought to light by Perfect Hlongwane, Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, who noted that journalists have been reduced to beggars due to abysmally low pay. “It’s a pity that journalists should be celebrating Workers’ Day, a day we look back and take stock of what has been achieved. But if you do a scan of the environment, you will realize that journalists are some of the least paid in the country,” Hlongwane explained.

The state of public health delivery systems in Zimbabwe is dire, and health professionals are at risk, according to the Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR). On the occasion of a commemorative day, a representative of ZADHR lamented the situation and advocated for better infection control protocols and personal protective equipment to ensure the safety and well-being of health workers.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Zimbabwe Educators Unions (FOZEU) called for unity among unions to fight for better wages and working conditions for all workers. A spokesperson for FOZEU urged progressive unions within and outside the ZCTU to come together and establish a genuine labor center. This center would represent the hopes and aspirations of workers and give them a fighting chance. FOZEU emphasized the need for a viable alternative platform for workers.

As Workers’ Day concluded, the overwhelming consensus among Zimbabwe’s workers and their representatives was clear. The day had transformed from a celebration of labor rights to a stark reminder of the economic and social challenges they face. With calls for unity and reform growing louder, the hope is that these issues will catalyze meaningful changes in labor policies and improve conditions for all workers in the nation.


Source: Newsday

You may also like

white logo with motto

The Zimbabwe Advocate is more than just a news outlet. We are a movement, a symbol of resistance against misinformation.

Latest News

© 2024 The Zimbabwe Advocate. All Rights Reserved.