Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in marking Workers’ Day today.
We all remember the role that the worker plays in the sustenance of life; in the sustenance of livelihoods; in the sustenance of economies worldwide. It is also a moment when we are called to take stock of the welfare of the worker in its various facets – the sufficiency, or not, of wages, workplace safety and so on.
Were it not for the Covid-19 pandemic, Gwanzura Stadium in Harare, White City in Bulawayo, Sakubva in Mutare, Mucheke in Masvingo and Ascot in Gweru would have hosted huge numbers of workers to mark the day in speeches, song and dance. But because of the regulations being enforced to contain the outbreak, only 50 people are allowed per venue to commemorate the day. Bringing together only 50 people into a stadium will not make sense so everything will be done virtually.
That is the context within which we commemorate Workers’ Day today.
“As we deal with today’s crisis and look to the future,” said ILO director-general Mr Guy Ryder in a statement to mark the day, “one thing is clear: we need a human-centred recovery, with justice and equity, a recovery that is sustainable and inclusive of all. Building back better means making deliberate and coherent policy choices to generate jobs and do a short, decent working conditions for everybody; to extend social protection; to protect workers’ rights; and to use social dialogue.”
“In many ways, the pandemic has brought darkness to our lives and made that task more difficult. Yet, it has also brought new possibilities that we can and must pursue. The flux of crisis gives us space to rethink, make new choices and new commitments for people, for planet and for prosperity.”
Covid-19 has been disruptive indeed, we agree with Mr Ryder. It has attacked the world of work. It has rendered thousands of people jobless. Those lucky to still have them aren’t too sure if they would be on their jobs tomorrow and are paid a fraction of their salaries. Still some may have been infected by the coronavirus and got sick and others may have lost their lives as a result.
For our country, the pandemic came last year amid illegal Western sanctions which had already crippled the economy, hampering its capacity to sustain and create jobs; its capacity to ensure workers are well paid and conditions of service good.
However, the Government is working hard to create a favourable environment for a decent workplace and a living wage for the worker.
Despite the sanctions and Covid-19, the health of the economy is improving as seen in falling inflation, increasing industrial capacity utilisation, improved electricity supply, massive investment in infrastructure and so on. We are optimistic that these elements, and more, serve as a solid foundation for sustained growth this year into the future. That recovery and growth will secure existing jobs and create new ones.
While there are clear positives in the economy, we feel that they would have been many more if the sanctions were not there. We therefore demand that Europe and the US remove the anti-people, anti-worker economic sanctions.