NEWLY elected Mineworkers Union of Zambia president Joseph Chewe has cautioned union leaders not to trade unionism with money. And Chewe has urged all workers to ensure that they sign contracts with their employers before taking up employment to guard against exploitation.
Chewe, currently seen as the strongest union voice across the mining sector, was last week elected unopposed at the quadrennial conference held at Fairmount hotel in Livingstone to take over from Chishimba Nkole.
Speaking during a phone-in programme on Radio Icengelo yesterday, Chewe said workers in all sectors needed a stronger voice now than ever before.
He said his desire was to leave MUZ better than he has found it when his time to leave office comes.
“Unionism is to speak for workers, to advocate for better conditions and better life for workers. So to you all labour leaders, bane (colleagues), don’t sacrifice workers or unionism because of money. Ulupiya twalusangafye lushala (We were not born with money, we just found it, we will leave it) so we need to fight for our members,” said Chewe who spoke in Bemba.
He said some employers were taking advantage of lowly placed workers by not availing them contracts before engangig them, “thereby denying them their rights to belong to a union of their choice”.
“Demand for a contract before you start work. It’s important to know conditions that you will be working under. If that’s not the case, you should engange relevant offices like the labour officers and union leaders,” said Chewe whose biggest hurdle will be the ongoing outsourcing battle at Konkola Copper Mines, which he had been fighting in his previous portfolio as MUZ general secretary, with government seemingly having allowed KCM to outsource major operations, a move that threatens unionised employees in the mine.