Workers around the world took to the streets today to mark International Workers Day, more commonly known as May Day, with marches and calls for higher pay and better working conditions.
In Zimbabwe workers joined the rest of the world in commemorating the day amid growing concern over poor salaries amid a deteriorating economic situation that has seen the majority of the country’s workers being turned into vendors.
While millions the world over marched to mark their day, thousands of Zimbabwean workers gathered at Gwanzura Stadium and other venues countrywide to commemorate the International Workers Day with speeches centering on the plight of the ordinary person who’s struggling to make ends meet as the economic crunch continues to bite.
Speaking at the commemorations, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, George Nkiwane, said the ZCTU was unhappy with the low salaries that Zimbabwean workers are earning.
He said most workers are earning salaries that are below the poverty datum line that is slightly above $500.
Nkiwane criticized the government’s plans to downsize the civil service by almost 50 percent. The Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency or Zimstats announced recently that over 30,000 workers were retrenched last year alone.
The ZCTU official said the introduction of the labour market reforms that allow employers to hire and fire their employees at will are not feasible in an underperforming Zimbabwean economy. Nkiwane said the proposed reforms are pro-capital and are tantamount to sending Zimbabweans back to the Economic Structural Adjustment Program, or ESAP, era where thousands were retrenched.
Instead of reducing its workforce, Nkiwane said the government should first flush out all ghost workers that he said are straining the national fiscus.
National chairperson of the ZCTU’s women’s quota, Miriam Katumba, said women were the most affected by the current economic hardships in the country.
Speaking at the same event, former ZCTU secretary general and leader of the MDCT, Morgan Tsvangirai, said problems being faced by the Zimbabwean workforce and all the country’s citizens are due to what he said is the lack of legitimacy of President Robert Mugabe’s government and his Zanu PF party.
Mr. Tsvangirai said Zanu PF has failed to provide the 2.2 million jobs that it promised Zimbabweans in the run-up to the 2013 national elections, adding Zimbabwe’s economy has been turned into a vending economy.
Mavambo Kusile Dawn party leader, Simba Makoni, renewed calls for a coalition to dislodge Zanu PF in the next elections saying that’s the only way problems afflicting the nation and its people can be addressed.
Mr. Tsvangirai also took the opportunity to condemn the recent xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals in South Africa. He said the attacks also indicate the growing need for Zimbabwe to resolve her economic crisis to lure back those who have left the country.
Some of the workers who attended the Workers Day commemorations at Gwanzura were clad in regalia inscribed “No To Xenophobia”.
The theme for this year’s commemorations was “Workers Under Siege, Arise and Fight On”.
The Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions held a separate event Rufaro Stadium to mark the day.