On international Workers’ Day, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) calls upon state and non-state actors to honour workers and celebrate their achievements in advancing labour rights.
ZLHR also congratulates Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) on reaching its 40th anniversary and commends its commitment to fighting for political, eConomic and social justice in Zimbabwe over the past 40 years.
International Workers’ Day is commemorated every year in Zimbabwe on 1 May and it aims to celebrate workers, their achievements and the successes of labour movements in expanding workers’ rights across the globe.
The day is an opportunity to reflect on the fundamental rights and protections that have been won by labour movements and trade unions. These achievements include minimum wages, paid sick leave and paid holidays. It is also an opportunity for workers to exercise their rights to peacefully lobby policymakers for fair wages and better working conditions. In the context of Zimbabwe, this day is an opportunity for all persons to urge policymakers to align Zimbabwe’s labour laws with international labour standards, for the benefit of all workers.
Workers have a right to be provided with opportunities to work in their freely chosen fields and work that will allow them to secure a decent living, in terms of section 24(1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Government is obliged to adopt reasonable measures and policies, within the limits of its resources, to ensure that this right is fulfilled, according to the section.
The right to work opportunities that can support a decent standard of living is closely linked to the right to human dignity, which is one of the founding values of Zimbabwe under the Constitution.
The inherent dignity of each worker entitles them to humane working conditions and fair pay. In the context of Zimbabwe, fair pay should take inflation into account and reflect the real cost of living.
This means that workers’ are entitled to pay that actually covers their essential needs, despite the presence of a minimum wage that might not realistically cover those needs.
The protection of workers’ rights to fair pay and humane working conditions is necessary for the advancement of socio-economic justice and the full exercise of their other rights under the Constitution.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the lives of many workers in Zimbabwe, with many workers being forced out of employment due to the mandatory closure of some businesses by government, in an attempt to contain the deadly virus. The resultant unemployment has caused a drastic deterioration of the living standards of many families within the country.
The lack of a source of income has left many people in the country economically vulnerable and in desperate need of aid. It is in this context that the state is urged to come up with robust relief mechanisms that will alleviate the plight of the numerous workers that have been forced out of employment by the coronavirus pandemic.
The state is also urged to ensure that the workers who remain employed are provided with the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and access to vaccines so that that they are protected from coronavirus.
On this International Workers’ Day, ZLHR calls upon:
- State actors and non-state actors to honour workers and celebrate their achievements in advancing labour rights,
- All members of society to join ZCTU in celebrating its 40th anniversary,
- All members of society to lobby policymakers to align Zimbabwe’s labour laws with international labour law standards,
- The state to take reasonable measures and policies, within the limits of its resources, to fulfil its obligation to provide work opportunities that can support a decent standard of living,
- Government to ensure that workers work in humane conditions,
- The state to satisfy workers’ demands for fair pay which takes inflation into account and reflects the real cost of living,
- Government to set up robust relief mechanisms to support workers who have been forced out of employment by coronavirus,
- The state to ensure that all workers are adequately protected from coronavirus by providing them with sufficient PPE and vaccines.