Social security reform should not drive pensioner into destitution – Tambatamba

DIVISIONS among trade unions have the propensity to weaken the voice of any union, says labour and social security minister Brenda Tambatamba.

During the tripartite consultative labour council meeting, Tambatamba encouraged the unions to identify the root cause of divisions amongst themselves with regards to decision making.

“It is said that ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. Divisions among trade unions have the propensity to weaken the voice of any union and that’s why I want to reiterate the importance of speaking in unity even as the unions fight for the protection of workers’ rights in order to make decisions that benefit the general membership,” she said.

Tambatamba said the new dawn government was committed to the promise of a good process of holistically reforming the social security system.

“The UPND manifesto, His Excellency the President’s pronouncements and recently the budget speech, are a clear demonstration of this social security reform agenda. I wish to assure the tripartite partners that nothing will be sneaked into Parliament as the process will be inclusive and consultative,” she said. “The tripartite partners are however, urged to promptly respond whenever we request for feedback so that we move together. Further, I wish to state that the social partners are welcome to provide workable proposals and alternatives. Our desire as government is to ensure that the reforms shall not drive a pensioner into destitution but rather assure a pensioner of a bright future.”

Tambatamba said social dialogue was key to tackling any crisis to ensure industrial harmony.

She said dialogue provides a means to bring parties to the discussion table and to find solutions with fair, sustainable outcomes and safeguard social peace.

Tambatamba said effective social dialogue contributes to sound industrial relations and sustained economic growth in any country.

She said it was a fact that where social dialogue takes place in the spirit of give and take, long-term solutions can be found.

“For the Tripartite Consultative Labour Council, social dialogue is crucial in reaching consensus on a wide range of policy issues. As a new dawn government, this is our priority as imbedded in the Zambia Decent Work Country Programme (2020-2022) which advocates for effective application of fundamental principles and rights at work to support equitable and inclusive economic growth in Zambia, enhanced economic diversification to create more and better job opportunities for all, especially young people and comprehensive and strengthened social protection systems,” Tambatamba said.

She said of equal significance was member education to create capacity to articulate issues that affect them especially during collective bargaining processes.

Tambatamba said educated members would also know the procedures to follow when aggrieved.

“In the recent past, the labour market has experienced several strikes due to either failure by the employer to adhere to the provisions of the law or the other way round. I therefore, urge the labour movement and employer organisations to allocate adequate resources for this noble cause and implement relevant programmes,” she said.

On COVID-19, Tambatamba urged employers and employees to diligently apply the health guidelines and also the COVID-19 workplace guidelines which were developed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in collaboration with the social partners.

International Labour Organisation director for Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, George Okutho said effective social dialogue between governments, employers’ and worker organisations, and sound industrial relations, were means to promote social justice, inclusive economic growth, improved wages and working conditions and sustainable enterprises.

He said as instruments of good governance at all levels from the local to the global, social dialogue fosters an enabling environment for the realisation of decent work for all.

“…the COVID-19 pandemic is taking human lives, putting health systems under enormous strain, and causing massive economic and social disruption across the country, continent, and globe. The pandemic has had far reaching socio-economic consequences which calls for effective tripartite social dialogue and cooperation bringing together governments, employers’ and workers’ organisations to design effective strategies and policies to address its impacts,” Okutho said.

He noted that Zambia was on course in the implementation of the current Decent Work Country Programme.

Okutho said ILO had projected that challenges for the future of work raise the need for further social dialogue.

He said the challenges include widening income inequalities, the changing nature of employment relationships, the prevalence of informal employment and reduced public expenditure.

Okutho said these were exacerbated by several mega-drivers of change, in particular technological advances, demographic shifts, climate change and deepening globalisation.

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