Saturday, January 15, 2011

Shamenda to engage ILO on weak labour laws

Shamenda to engage ILO on weak labour laws
By Moses Kuwema
Sat 15 Jan. 2011, 04:01 CAT

IT is a total violation of the international covenant on labour to stop people who are not in employment from representing workers as trade union leaders, says Fackson Shamenda.

Reacting to labour minister Austin Liato’s statement that the government would not allow people who were not in employment to represent workers, Shamenda said trade union leaders by virtue of being full time representatives of workers, were in employment.

“The majority of countries where the trade union movement is active, leaders who work full time as union representatives are not employees of any government or private firms,” said Shamenda who is former Zambia Congress of Trade Unions president.

“And this allows them not to get insulated by the government or their employers, which is why we don’t allow civil servants to engage in active politics.”

He said in some exceptional cases where there was freedom and independence of the trade union movement, union leaders were allowed to take leave from their workplaces so that they could independently carry out their activities.

“But immediately the government starts asking for payslips from trade union leaders, that is interference and there is nothing personal. It is illogical for anyone to tell someone who pays tax as an employee of the trade union they represent,” he said.

Shamenda said the trade unions could actually take up the matter with the International Labour Organisation.

He said the Zambian labour law, which Liato referred to which did not allow union leaders not in employment to represent the workers, was very bad in that it was enacted to weaken the trade union movement.

Shamenda said the Ministry of Labour and Social Security had a duty to protect jobs in the country.

He said even when people were dismissed from their companies, the labour ministry should act as an arbiter.

“The ministry should protect jobs and not instigate people to go on the streets out of employment. The ministry should even protect a union leader if he is dismissed by his employers. If the arbiter is not there for the workers, who will protect them,” he said.

And Shamenda agreed with Liato that the labour movement was weak at the time he served as ZCTU president because that was when government interference started. He said the interference had continued until now.

“But the minister should avoid being personal because in my earlier statement I didn’t say it was Liato who had weakened the labour movement but the government, and he knows what I’m talking about,” he said.

Shamenda said the country had continued to experience numerous problems because people always rushed to personalise issues.

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