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union threatens fresh protests
May 02, 2007
HARARE – The
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) on Tuesday promised to call
nationwide protests by workers in two months’ time to press for
better pay and living conditions in the face of a deepening economic
crisis in the southern African country.
Lovemore Matombo told thousands of workers at May Day celebrations
in Harare that the union – the largest representative body for workers
in the country – wanted employees paid wages linked to the country’s
runaway inflation and that President Robert Mugabe’s government
urgently moves to fix the bleeding economy.
we need to be strong to demand (PDL) (poverty datum line or breadline)
linked wages within a specified time frame. We will toyi toyi (march
in streets) if we fail to get PDL linked wages," said Matombo,
who has been arrested and tortured by the police in the past for
organising worker protests.
The PDL is estimated
at above Z$1.5 million, way above the average monthly salary for
most Zimbabwean workers which ranges between Z$200 000 to $500 000.
called for the repealing of the draconian Public
Order and Security Act under which scores of union activists
have been arrested for organizing protests without police permission
as required under the law. The ZCTU leader also urged the government
to scrap a tough media law under which dozens of journalists, who
are members of the union – have been arrested.
Nicholas Goche, who snubbed an invitation to attend the May Day
celebrations, was not immediately available for comment on the ZCTU’s
threat to call a general strike by workers if its demands for more
pay were not met. But the government has in the past deployed armed
police and soldiers to crush strikes by the ZCTU.
economic meltdown has manifested itself through record inflation
of 2 200 percent and the highest in the world, surging unemployment,
shortages of food, foreign currency and just about every basic survival
crisis that has fuelled political tensions in the once stable country
has hit hardest cities and towns most of which have become hotbeds
of opposition to Mugabe’s government.
by the ZCTU to call for more strikes comes just a month after the
labour federation staged a two-day nationwide job boycott in the
first week of April over the country’s fast deteriorating economic
crisis and worsening conditions for workers.
The job boycott
largely flopped as workers turned up for work and businesses opened
but analysts attributed this to fear of a government backlash, especially
after government security forces had a few weeks before the work
stoppage brutally stopped an opposition prayer rally.
And in a show
of force, heavily armed police mounted several roadblocks on roads
leading to Highfield working class suburb where the ZCTU May Day
celebrations were taking place.
water canons were also prominently displayed at police stations
in the suburbs of Mbare and Southerton, not far from Highfield.
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