Outspoken youth committee chairperson, Christian Ranji said young workers should stand up and speak with a united voice and demand their space against oppressive employers.
The youth committee she leads is operating guided by the strategic plan and youth policy which were developed in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
Ranji noted with regret that young workers across the board face several challenges as employers are taking advantage of the high unemployment levels now hovering at over 90 percent to give them a raw deal.
“The problems really lie on the fundamental issue of economic collapse where employers no longer respect workers because there are ‘too many people chasing a few available jobs’, she said.
This current situation has given rise to casualization of labour as companies now prefer engaging contract workers and students from universities and other tertiary institutions.
“Casualisation of labour has a long term effect on trade union membership. Young workers feel threatened to be active in fear of victimisation. In most cases when you become active in trade union work you know you are closing your doors for promotion and we have to fight this head on,” she said.
Ranji challenged veteran members of the trade union to rope in young workers and mentor them with practical survival skills on how to become effective unionists able to stand against insincere employers.
The youth leader said given the decrease in life expectancy now reported to be at 38 years, the government should consider reducing the retirement age from the current 60 to 55 years to give the youths employment opportunities.
“Given this scenario we now require a policy shift because we are dealing with extra ordinary circumstances. Most youths will never taste formal employment since the majority are dying in their 30s because of chronic illness, poverty and drugs,” she said.
The opaque job market has also increased incidences of nepotism making it difficult for workers to unite and speak with one voice because most workers at a given entity will be related.
“Sometimes it is difficult for young workers to be active at a workplace where management prefers to employ their relatives. So it is difficult to mobilise for action against an unfair labour practice. Organised labour is under attack because employers are diluting workers’ power”, she said.
Despite these challenges, the youth desk continues to advance the interest of young workers in the union and have succeeded in commemorating the International Youth Day in 2017 and 2018 where they hammered the need for the recognition of young workers.
The commemorations helped the youth to interact and play a role in communities that they come from. The activities included cleaning campaigns in towns, hospitals and visiting the elderly who were pampered with food hampers after having lunch with the youths.
The youth committee is making strides and is working with other unions under an IndustriALL project to conduct a massive membership recruitment exercise.
She said during the organising programme, most workers in the energy sector expressed interest to join ZEWU which has proved to be a tried and tested organisation despite the hardships facing workers. In the short space of time that she has been active in the trade union sphere, Ranji has demonstrated her leadership prowess which has seen her being nominated to undergo a leadership course on politics and activism which is being coordinated by FES.
“Maybe one day I will enter national politics to pursue a socialist agenda and definitely I will be a game changer in that outfit,” she said.