ZAMBIA Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) had proposed to government to waive tax on electricity tariffs and suspend water bills for households in order to relieve households of challenges brought about by the coronavirus.
In a statement, ZCTU general secretary Cosmas Mukuka noted with concern the interventions instituted by government in the wake of the COVID-19 and their likely impact on workers and the general public.
He said his union observed the efforts by government to mitigate the pandemic in the country.
“President Edgar Lungu in his last address said wearing of masks is now mandatory. Inasmuch as ZCTU may support the mandatory wearing of masks, the declaration in this regard will pose a number of challenges, especially to low income groups and informal workers who may not afford to buy the masks on the market. For this reason, the union urges government to provide free masks to markets and bus stations which have remained potential areas for the spread of the pandemic due to overcrowding,” Mukuka said.
He noted that the union, however, commended the initiatives taken by marketeers and bus drivers who had come together to form a consortium to carry out sensitisations against the spread of the COVID-19 and provide face masks to its members.
Mukuka noted that on Monday April 20, 2020, Minister of finance Dr. Bwalwa Ngandu announced that government would waive tax penalties and interest on outstanding tax liabilities resulting from the impact of COVID-19.
“Much as ZCTU supports the waiver on tax penalties and interest, these measures will have very little impact on the workers, especially those in the informal economy. Therefore, ZCTU proposes that government should also waive tax on electricity tariffs and suspend water bills for households in order to relieve households from the costs of electricity and water,” Mukuka said.
He stated that by doing so, it will release some disposable income for households to be able to afford other necessities such as food, face masks and sanitisers.
Mukuka observes that the government had releases K500 million to the Public Service Pensions Fund to pay over 1,500 retirees…K140 million to various road contractors.
“The union appreciates this measure particularly to the retirees whose benefits are not made available to them promptly at the time of their retirement and urge government to promptly meet its outstanding obligations without waiting for such a crisis,” Mukuka noted.
He noted that government was engaging the International Monitory Fund (IMF) with the view to benefit from other appropriate facilities to which Zambia qualifies and it was also considering an economic programme with IMF.
“ZCTU advices government to be consultative in approach by bringing stakeholders and the trade union movement in these consultations because history had shown that IMF policies particularly in Zambia tend to hurt workers who have always been the target for sacrifice through wage and recruitment freezes,” Mukuka said.
He observed that as a result of the preventive measure instituted by other trading partners, Zambians were opting for local products and the situation provided Zambians with a new opportunity for domestic agriculture and locally manufactured products to be sold in great volumes in supermarkets.
“Owing to this opportunity, government has established a task force whose mandate is bringing more Zambian products on the market and ZCTU urges government to consider this as a long term measure in support of diversification in all productive sectors of the economy in line with the seventh National Development Plan and the vision 2030,” Mukuka said.
He further noted that ZCTU considered this in initiative as the best policy option to develop a resilient domestic economy by promoting local value addition, industrialisation and employment creation.
“The union wishes to urge government to continue with the fight against the Covid-19 in order to safeguard the lives of the people and also ensure basic essentials are available especially to the vulnerable people,” said Mukuka.