Outrage ensues over 'erosion' of workers' rights

HARARE - International labour unions have expressed outrage over the alleged erosion of worker rights in Zimbabwe under the “new dispensation.”

In a flurry of angry letters to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, international labour unions strongly condemned the government’s heavy–handedness in responding to workers’ protests against new economic reforms.

Leading unions the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) and the Italian Confederation of Trade Unions (CISL) all asked Mnangagwa to respect workers’ rights after the arrest of several trade union activists last week for attempting to demonstrate against the proposed two cents per dollar transaction tax.

In a letter to Mnangagwa, ITUC said the government must start upholding workers’ rights.

“We deplore and strongly condemn the excessive use of violence and harassment against trade union members in retaliation for legitimate demands made as part of a peaceful protest.

“The government of Zimbabwe is obliged to ensure that workers can exercise their right to freedom of association in a climate that is free from violence, pressure or threats of any kind against their leaders and members.

“In targeting the ZCTU (Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions) for violence and oppression, the government has not only breached article 59 of its Constitution but also the provisions of ILO Convention No 87 on Freedom of Association that it is bound by,” ITUC said, adding the government must investigate the violence that occurred when the police was arresting trade unionists.

“It is our expectation that those found to be responsible for the violence will be effectively prosecuted and that the victims of violence and harassment will be provided with adequate remedies. We request to be kept informed about the establishment and outcomes of such an investigation,” the federation said.

The police brutalised and arrested trade unionists including ZCTU president Peter Mutasa and secretary-general Japhet Moyo who were later released two days later.

In a press statement, SATUCC said Mnangagwa’s regime is failing to depart from former President Robert Mugabe’s habit of intimidating workers.

“It is saddening that once again the workers of Zimbabwe have been denied the right to organise, assemble and freely express themselves barely two months after the swearing in … Mnangagwa who proclaimed a new dispensation for the people of Zimbabwe and promised transformation from the previous … Mugabe brutal administration which repeatedly violated workers’ rights with impunity.

“SATUCC strongly condemns the action by the government of Zimbabwe and stresses that workers’ rights as well as human rights in general should be respected and upheld.
SATUCC therefore demands that the Government of Zimbabwe should respect and safeguard the rights of all workers and general public in Zimbabwe, and for our affiliate ZCTU to freely conduct trade union activities, defend and champion the rights of workers in Zimbabwe without restrictions and police brutality and harassment.”
Italian Confederation of Trade Unions (CISL) also wrote to Mnangagwa saying the arrest was illegal.

“I write on behalf of CISL, representing 4, 5 million of affiliates to denounce the blocking of the peaceful demonstration organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the subsequent arrest of leaders of ZCTU.”

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