Friday, March 07, 2008

Chambishi barbarism

Chambishi barbarism
By Editor
Friday March 07, 2008 [03:00]

The violence that has accompanied the industrial unrest in Chambishi is unacceptable. There is no industrial dispute that can justify atrocious acts such as the stoning of Chinese workers and destroying company property. No crime can be committed in the name of demanding for improved conditions of service. And all those who are involved in this criminal activity if identified, should be arrested and prosecuted. The men they were stoning should be their partners in developing this country; these men are to be their neighbours. Whatever their faults, whatever their offences, there is no reason to stone them. Instead, we should impress upon them our ultimate and essential friendliness towards them.

The violence of this week in Chambishi amounts to nothing but barbarism. If these are not the methods of barbarism, what methods does barbarism employ? These are acts for which we venture to say nothing can furnish justification.

Lunacy is always distressing, but sometimes it is dangerous; and when you get it manifested in such a violent manner, it is about time that it was ruthlessly stopped.

No one can deny that remuneration for work should guarantee people a dignified livelihood for themselves and their families, but this should be achieved in a peaceful and non-violent manner, without physically injuring or maiming others.

The rights of workers, like all rights, are based on the nature of the human person and on her and his transcendent dignity. Among these rights are: a just wage; a working environment not harmful to the workers’ physical health or their moral integrity; social security, and their right to assemble and form associations. In this regard unions which enable workers improve their conditions should be valued and promoted by everybody in society. The dignity of work must be recognised with just wages and safe conditions.

Employees have a strict duty to give their employers efficient and conscientious work for which they have a right to a just wage or salary. People’s work concerns not only the economy but also, and especially, personal values. We say this because work is rooted in respect for human dignity. And every effort should be made that the enterprise becomes a community of persons. In this way, the violence that we saw in Chambishi would not be there or would be easy to avoid.

All workers have the right to receive a just wage. And if our country is to move forward, honesty and hard work are demanded of all of us.

The issue of wages and conditions of work at Chambishi Smelter needs to be reviewed to establish the true situation, not only by trade unions but also by the government .

The government should regulate industries and commerce to protect workers’ rights and curb exploitation. All forms of enterprises that place productivity before persons deserve to be condemned.

And our condemnation of violence in Chambishi does not mean that we are opposed to these workers, demands for just wages and conditions of work. We will always be with them in their peaceful and just demands for wage increments and the improvement of their working conditions. But we will not be with them when they start stoning innocent Chinese workers simply because their grievances are not being met by their employers.

While we accept that nothing our workers have attained was granted to them graciously, we don’t think the reckless use of violence should be condoned, tolerated and supported in any way. Anything our workers have attained was granted to them only after a grueling fight, after strikes and organised movements demanding wage increases. But these had to be peaceful and non-violent. Workers have to fight so that their most elemental rights are respected; they have to keep up a constant fight in order to obtain some small benefit in this economic order. But they have to do so in a non-violent way.

The destruction of property at Chambishi may hurt the company financially and otherwise, but it will certainly not benefit the workers in any way. If anything, it may even reduce the capacity of the company to increase their wages as it has to replace the damaged property and equipment.

We therefore urge the labour movement to seriously discourage our workers from engaging in violent and destructive actions. It is not good for our trade unionists to fail to condemn violent and destructive actions of this nature. This is not the way civilised workers should conduct themselves; and this is not the way civilised trade unions should react to such type of barbarism. There is need to condemn that which deserves condemnation.

There is need for the Chinese authorities to examine the conditions they are offering to Zambian workers. If they don’t, they will continue to face serious problems and resentment from the Zambian workers.

The conditions that may be acceptable to Chinese workers may not necessarily be tolerated by Zambian workers. And an attempt to impose such conditions on Zambian workers may be counter-productive and disruptive.

And moreover, the conditions under which Zambian workers live are very different from those of Chinese workers and may therefore need different types of conditions.

Let all these issues be deeply looked into by all the stakeholders, and soberly come to some consensus on what should prevail. We call for maturity, tolerance and restraint. But crime should be punished and not condoned in any way.

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