Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Secretary-General, Cosmas Mukuka, says the change of government has brought renewed hope among workers and their families.
Speaking when he officially opened the 12th National Union of Communication Workers (NUCW) at the Zambezi Source Lodge in Kabwe today, Mr Mukuka said workers and their families are expecting improvements in their living standards and general welfare.
Mr Mukuka observed that under the former Patriotic Front (PF) government, unemployment and poverty levels had skyrocketed and repeated calls by unions to reverse the situation fell on deaf ears.
He also observed that wealth was only circulating in the hands of a few people while the majority were condemned to wallow in poverty and squalor.
“We reached a point where the general citizenry and the workers felt helpless, especially that leaders who tried to speak out were intimidated with impunity,” Mr Mukuka said.
Mr Mukuka said the workers will demand nothing short of improved living standards and that the principle of free collective bargaining will be respected.
Meanwhile, Mr. Mukuka has urged the government to fully embrace the 2030 agenda which places decent work for all at the heart of policies for sustainable and inclusive growth and development.
“We demand that while the country strives for economic growth, people must begin to see opportunities of finding decent work. We want working people to earn enough wages and salaries that can lift them and their families out of poverty,” he said.
Mr. Mukuka said the labour movement is saddened that most workers are still working under unsafe and unhealthy conditions.
“This is unacceptable because it puts the lives and safety of workers under great risk. Most employers have put profits first before the physical welfare of their workers,” he charged.
He has urged the new dawn government and other employers to urgently build a culture of prevention that respects the right to a safe and healthy working environment as well as ensuring both employers and workers know their rights.
He added that it is also imperative that employers implement International Labour Organisation (ILO) fundamental rights and standards because workers require to be protected and their working conditions improved.
And Mr Mukuka said women’s economic empowerment is fundamental to gender equality.
He noted that to most women workers, their most important source of economic empowerment and dignity is a job.
He said closing gender gaps in employment, ensuring decent work for all women and equal pay for work of equal value is key to achieving gender equality.
“I wish to call upon trade unions and employers to work together in ensuring that all forms of discrimination against women workers and indeed all girls are completely eliminated,” he implored.