ON May 1, Zimbabwe celebrated International Workers’ Day along with other countries in the world.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) calls upon State and non-State actors to honour workers and celebrate their achievements in advancing labour rights.
ZLHR congratulates the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) on attaining its 40th anniversary and commends its commitment to fighting for political, economic and social justice in Zimbabwe for the duration of its life.
International Workers’ Day is commemorated every year in Zimbabwe on May 1 and it aims to celebrate workers, their achievements and the successes of labour movements in championing workers’ rights across the globe.
The day is an opportunity to reflect on the fundamental rights and protections that have been won by labour movements and trade unions. These achievements include minimum wages, paid sick leave and paid holidays.
It is also an opportunity for workers to exercise their rights to peacefully lobby policymakers for fair wages and better working conditions. In the context of Zimbabwe, this day is an opportunity for all stakeholders to urge policymakers to align Zimbabwe’s labour laws with international labour standards, for the benefit of all workers.
Workers have a right to be accorded opportunities to work in their chosen fields and work that allows them to secure a decent living, in terms of section 24(1) of the Constitution.
Government is obliged to implement reasonable measures and policies, within the limits of its resources, to ensure that this right is fulfilled, according to the said section.
The right to work opportunities that can support a decent standard of living is closely linked to the right to human dignity, which is one of the founding values of Zimbabwe under the Constitution.
The inherent dignity of each worker entitles them to humane working conditions and fair pay. In the context of Zimbabwe, fair pay should take inflation into account and reflect the real cost of living.
This means that workers are entitled to salaries that actually covers their essential needs, despite the presence of a minimum wage that might not realistically cover those needs. The protection of workers’ rights to fair pay and humane working conditions is necessary for the advancement of socio-economic justice and the full exercise of their other rights under the Constitution.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the lives of workers in Zimbabwe, with many of them being forced out of employment due to the mandatory closure of some businesses by government, in an attempt to contain the deadly virus.
The resultant unemployment has caused a drastic deterioration in the living standards of many families in the country. Lack of sources of income has left many people in the country economically vulnerable and in desperate need of aid.
It is in this context that the State is urged to come up with robust relief mechanisms that alleviate the plight of the numerous workers that have been forced out of employment by the coronavirus pandemic.
The State is also urged to ensure that the workers who are in employment are provided with personal protective equipment and have easy access to vaccines so that they are protected from coronavirus.