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Zimbabwe Labor Minister Goche and Union On Collision Course

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the country's main labor federation, has accused Labor Minister Nicholas Goche of blocking its efforts to be represented on the board of the National Social Security Authority as it says is its right.

Goche has refused to appoint three ZCTU nominees, saying the law empowers him to appoint whoever he wants. He adds that the ZCTU is not Zimbabwe's only union.

The ZCTU in 2004 withdrew its representatives from the NSSA board to protest what it said was a lack of transparency. The authority had operated for many years without producing audited financial statements, which prompted the ZCTU to raise its concerns. But its rank-and-file urged ZCTU leaders to re-engage.

The ZCTU subsequently nominated board members drawn from the Zimbabwe Urban Council Workers Union, the Zimbabwe Electricity and Energy Workers Union and the Civil Service Employees Association.

Goche, in a letter obtained by VOA, complained that the ZCTU had sent copies of its correspondence with the minister to the International Labor Organization in Geneva.

Stated Goche: "I urge you to desist from the practice of copying to the International Labor Organisation Office matters of national interest." He said such communications did not raise any legal issues that were not addressed by Zimbabwean law.

“One would want to enquire as to what ILO has to do with the composition of NSSA Board when it is clear that they are not the authority to whom you report," he wrote. "Let us uphold national pride and interest added to respecting the national law.” He suggested that the union had some "pecuniary interest" in copying to the ILO.

ZCTU Secretary General Wellington Chibebe hit back, saying that “copying correspondences to the International Labor a matter of choice that does not have any pecuniary interest and is not illegal in terms of our law.”

Chibebe further responded that, "any democratic and transparent government will not be skeptical" of unions which keep the ILO informed on discussions. However, he acknowledged, it "enhances the undisputed supervisory role of the ILO."

Commenting, National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku said Goche seemed to be more concerned with political expediency than with the respective rights and duties of trade unions and government agencies.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...