SPEECH BY THE HON MINISTER OF PUBLIC SERVICE LABOUR & SOCIAL WELFARE HON P. MUPFUMIRA AT THE 8TH CONGRESS OF ZIMBABWE ENERGY WORKERS UNION: RAINBOW HOTEL, VICTORIA FALLS: 21 -22 JANUARY 2016
Master of Ceremony
President: Mrs A. Chitambo
General Secretary: Mr M. Chikuni
Executive Members of Zimbabwe Energy Workers Union
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am honoured and humbled by your invitation to officiate at this very important occasion. A Congress is an important event in the union’s calendar and I therefore value this invitation as it gives me opportunity to interface directly with you. I want on the onset to commend you on convening this 8th Congress. This shows your commitment to adhering to your constitution thereby ensuring the observance of the dictates of the Labour Act.
As your parent Ministry we have also demonstrated our commitment on the improving fair labour standards by focusing on the realignment of the labour laws in order to create a conducive labour administration environment. We believe that the law should have provisions that balance the interests of all players- labour, business and the government. We also believe that when the environment permits, opportunities can then present themselves so that all parties will be able to exploit them in order to stimulate our socio-economic growth which is guided by our economic blue print ZIMASSET.
However, all parties have to examine and understand the current economic situation prevailing in the country. We cannot run away from the fundamental principles of economics. Each factor of production has a causal effect on the other .Higher wages increase the cost of production and goods, while increase of price on goods affects the workers disposable income. It is the vicious cycle that our country faces today. It is therefore imperative that social partners work together to address the challenges we face.
My Ministry is cognisant of the important role you play in maintaining industrial harmony particularly in collective bargaining. You will be aware that the Labour Amendment (No. 5 of 2015) has gone so far as to stipulate areas for consideration such as productivity and the welfare of employees. I urge you to embrace these provisions so as to ensure that we maintain our industries whilst continuing to broaden areas for negotiation that can improve the welfare of the employees. My Ministry values the role labour market institutions like yourself play and expect them to execute their mandate as delegated.
Ladies and gentlemen, you will be aware that the judgement in the case of ZUVA Petroleum versus Don Nyamande and Another and the ensuing action by employers terminating contracts of employment led to Government fast tracking the amendment of the Act to avert further job losses. Government is committed to continue the reform process so as to address operational difficulties and legislative gaps while taking on board concerns from the social partners that were not captured by Labour Amendment No 5.
I note with satisfaction that since your registration you have been executing your mandate diligently representing workers in the settlement of grievances and disputes. The extensive education and training programme in place ensures that you conscientize workers of their rights and obligations. In the same breath your mainstreaming of gender issues throughout the union’s structures and programs is particularly pleasing as it is evidence of a Union in touch with its membership and developmental trends. With your membership standing on six thousand (6000) in an industry with twelve thousand (12 000) workers with twenty five percent of that membership being women, I have no doubt that you will be able to consolidate your presence in the sector. I urge the executive to continue introducing initiatives that build not only the worker but the industry as a whole.
The convening of the national youth conference for union members below the age of thirty five and the setting up of a youth structure is an exciting initiative this firstly recognises the importance of younger workers and gives more participating space within the organisation. Secondly and most importantly, provides the union the opportunity to grow and nurture future leaders.
I commend you for those initiatives and let us continue to consolidate efforts in those areas for it is only by taking everyone on board that true progress can be made.
Finally may I take this opportunity to reiterate Government’s commitment to providing the people of Zimbabwe with decent jobs, that is, jobs that recognise the value of the workers in regard to the work environment and their welfare. This is a view shared by the ILO as evidenced by the adoption of the decent work agenda. Government cannot do it alone and needs trade unions to concentrate their energies and expertise to the improvement of the welfare of the workers.
With these few remarks I wish you fruitful deliberations.