Most workers in Zimbabwe’s south-eastern city of Masvingo say they are facing deteriorating working conditions, getting low salaries and generally struggling to make ends meet due to a depressed local economy, which has resulted in low production in many companies.
The workers say as a result, Labor Day has become an ordinary event since they are doing what they call non-rewarding formal and informal jobs in Zimbabwe.
One of the most disgruntled workers is Sheila Gakava, an employee of the local branch of the National Railways of Zimbabwe, who says there is nothing to celebrate on Labor Day.
“This used to be an important day in my life but not anymore. I am failing to fend for my family and my children have dropped out of school so to me celebrating this day makes no sense. I am actually contemplating migrating to other countries to seek greener pastures.”
Another local worker, Zachariah Chikwenya, says most employees are working for nothing.
“There is nothing much to celebrate, we are facing economic challenges in the country. We will be just celebrating our poverty. We are just hoping for a better future and it is hope that’s is keeping us alive. Non-payment of salaries and the deteriorating working environment and pressure from home is affecting our performance at work so things are not rosy for us.”
Zimbabwe’s largest workers’ representative body, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions or ZCTU, says although the labor situation is bad in the country, it is going ahead with national preparations for Labour Day.
Michael Kandukutu, ZCTU national organising director, says preparations are at an advanced stage for marking Labor Day.
“ZCTU is going to be commemorating workers’ day at 30 centres in the country. Our structures are busy fundraising and organising and mobilising for the event. We will be commemorating under the theme Defending Workers’ Constitutional Rights Our Prerogative.”
ZCTU bemoaned the violation of workers’ rights in the country and the general decay of the economy, which it says is contributing towards the impoverishment and suffering of workers.
ZCTU gender director, Fiona Magaya, says women are facing a serious violation of their rights and continue to suffer more despite their rights being enshrined in Zimbabwe’s constitution.
“We are not happy as women. We are actually mourning, you find out that women are still being discriminated, there is still the patriarchal belief that women cannot lead and should not have positions of influence at workplaces. Men still demand sexual favours from us for them to promote us and that is a gross violation of our rights. We are still far from getting gender equality.”
Kandukutu says workers in Zimbabwe are facing a number of challenges. “In the past it used to be a commemoration but not anymore, workers are facing challenges, a lot are losing their jobs emanating from the July 17 Supreme court ruling that saw the sacking of over 28,000 workers.
“Our government is promoting labour market flexibility and labour laws that allow employers to hire and fire workers at will. There is no rest for workers and us as ZCTU so we continue to fight the workers’ struggle.”
Zimbabwe has declared the first day of May a national holiday to give workers a chance to commemorate Labor Day but employees says the holiday has lost meaning.