Dialogue must come before unions' threats

HARARE - Yesterday, the Daily News reported that the country’s medical doctors are threatening to embark on an industrial action to force government to review their on-call allowances by 50 percent, allow them to import vehicles duty free and unfreeze the recruitment of additional manpower to ease the workload.

Through the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, they have written to the minister of Health and Child Care, David Parirenyatwa, demanding that their demands should be addressed as part of government’s 100-day plan.

A few days earlier, the Daily News had another report in which the Apex Council, along with unions representing teachers — the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe and the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe — are ratcheting up pressure on their employer to award a pay increase in tandem with the poverty datum line or risk a crippling job action.

In the same report, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions was also quoted saying it is currently consulting its membership in the wake of a wave of price increases that have hit the country’s fragile economy since August last year.

These reports show that the discontentment in the labour market is cutting across both the private and public sectors because no single individual has been spared by the pricing madness.

The price increases have left the worker poorer by eating into his or her income while worsening the burden on those who have dependents to look after.

At the same time, they have dampened the demand for goods and services. With the exception of greedy entrepreneurs that are bent on profiteering, the majority of local companies are singing the blues.

The financial situation in government is equally not looking good. Against this background, any demand for an upward adjustment in salaries needs to be measured. In view of the poor state of our economy, the nation cannot afford any strike at this juncture.

Unions should therefore engage their employers with an open mind so that those that can afford the salary increase can make the necessary adjustments while those that cannot afford should not be held to ransom.

Workers, be they public or private, must appreciate that they have an important role to play in reviving institutions they work for and, by extension, growing the country’s economy. But as we make the call for dialogue across the board, employers must avoid sending conflicting signals by pleading bankruptcy during the day while pampering themselves with unjustified perks under the cover of darkness.

Such duplicity can only invite trouble.

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