Labour leaders in Zambia need to urgently redeem themselves.
Trade unions leaders in Zambia are short changing workers; they are not representing workers well.
And Edgar Lungu’s Labour Day claim that he knows labour leaders that have compromised themselves by constantly seeking contracts from employers cannot be simply dismissed as lies. The only thing Edgar left out was how he himself has compromised some labour leaders.
Edgar is right, most labour leaders “have stopped representing workers”.
‘’What we have seen is a tendency by leaders in the labour movement to improve their well-being as leaders. And some of them to even compromise their positions by cutting deals with the employers as suppliers or contractors, thereby making it very difficult for them to negotiate for the workers. This must stop!’’ demanded Edgar. ‘’We know you, but we don’t want to go public. You are conflicted, and because of that, you cannot represent that mine worker there. You cannot represent that civil servant there because you are busy cutting deals with the employers; that must stop. We are in this together. And if you feel challenged, please, come and see me at State House, we dialogue. Don’t heap everything on the Zambian government, that’s [speaking for workers] not our role. Our role is to create a conducive environment in which productivity will be enhanced, workers will get paid their dues and everything else.”
Yes, the labour movement is compromised and can now even be mocked by Edgar.
Labour leaders shouldn’t expect Edgar to respect them after compromising and using them. They have become used like toilet tissue in the hands of Edgar that must be discarded.
Who doesn’t know that most of them were elected to their positions with the help of Edgar’s party and government?
Without strong, well organised and principled trade union leaders, workers will lose many of the protections against abusive employers, including the government. Wages and other conditions of service for all will be depressed, even as corporate profits soar. And we will have a government of the corporations and tenderprenuers, by the already powerful, for the wealthy.
Strong, responsible and incorruptible trade union leaders are essential to industrial fair play. Without them the labour bargain is wholly one-sided. The parties to the labour contract must be nearly equal in strength if justice is to be worked out, and this means that the workers must be organised and that their organisations must be well led, respected by employers as a condition precedent to industrial peace.
Labour leaders cannot stand still. They must not retreat. They must go on, or go under.