Andile Tshuma, Chronicle Reporter
WORKERS have called on Government to protect them from wanton price increases which they say are eroding their salaries.
Speaking yesterday at the May Day celebrations held in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) second Vice President Mr John Chirenda reading a speech on behalf of the ZCTU president Mr Peter Mutasa, said the plight of workers in Zimbabwe was worsening due to inflation and profiteering by businesses.
“Today we are celebrating May Day under the theme ‘we are at crossroads, unite fight neoliberalism and austerity’. Every ordinary citizen is suffering,” he said.
The ZCTU leader called on Government to gazette the minimum wage which he said should be above the poverty datum line, which is at US$600.
“We also note with concern the massive price hikes which have affected almost every basic commodity thereby worsening the plight of the already struggling masses of Zimbabwe. Prices of most products have gone up by more than 300 percent in the last two months and the prices continue to rise more frequently. This has greatly eroded the incomes of ordinary workers who are finding it hard to survive on their meagre wages. Most workers earn an average of RTGS$300 per month and therefore cannot afford to buy the goods in most shops,” said Mr Chirenda.
Meanwhile, the National Consumer Rights Association in their May Day statement called for workers to unite and press for better living and working conditions. They called on Government to take robust steps to stem the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities and to iron out policy inconsistencies.
“We are indeed saddened that workers as employees and consumers have nothing to celebrate as they are living way below the living wage and the little that they take home is being totally wiped out by ever rising cost of basic commodities. We are also alive to the fact that unemployment remains unacceptably high such that millions are without income. Industry remains weak and unable to quickly absorb millions of job seekers. Policy confusion and uncertainty still characterise Government decisions resulting in fertile conditions for destructive speculative investments and pricing. Anti-competition pricing cartels are flourishing across sectors corruptly embedded in the supply chain. This combination is driving the cost of living way beyond the reach of the overwhelming majority of consumers,” read the statement.
In Matabeleland North, Hwange and Victoria Falls were the main venues for the provincial Workers’ Day celebrations activities.
However, the turnout was low. In Victoria Falls a group of about 30 people mostly made up of ZCTU members turned up and cleaned areas around Chinotimba long distance bus terminus.
ZCTU Hwange district representative Mr Jethro Tshabalala led the event and clean-up in Victoria Falls.
He said the low turn-out was a result of economic challenges faced by workers.
In a telephone interview, ZCTU western region chairperson Mr Ambrose Sibindi encouraged employers to pay workers in United States dollars to revive their spirits.
In Midlands province, the Workers’ Day commemoration were held at Mkoba Stadium in Gweru were a handful of workers turned up to celebrate the day that has since been hijacked by the opposition MDC-Alliance party.
The turnout was very poor and in attendance were MDC Alliance members such as vice president Professor Welshman Ncube, Members of Parliament for Mkoba, Chiwundura and Gweru Central Amos Chibaya, Livingston Chimina and Brian Dube and their handful of supporters.
Professor Ncube said there is need for the workers to unite in their fight for better living conditions.