I greet you all in the name of our Lord, who continue to protect and guide us at a time when workers across the country are facing trying times. It is again that time of the year where we look back and reflect on the journey that we have travelled together as ZEWU family in the year 2019.
Firstly, I would like to thank you for all your unwavering support and loyalty which you gave me and my leadership during the course of the year. This was underpinned by unappalled level of determination, dedication and great zeal to ensure that we always remain as a front runner representative of workers in the energy sector in Zimbabwe.
We would also want to salute some of our members who passed on during the course of the year either of natural causes or work-related illness and accidents. May their souls rest in eternal peace.
CDs, it is sad to report that the ZEWU family and other Zimbabweans from all walks of life were shattered by the sad news of the untimely demise of Mrs Angeline Chitambo, the former President of ZEWU, who passed on Thursday 29 August 2019. May her soul rest in eternal peace! We worked together with the family until she was laid to rest. The organisation provided transport and secured a grave at Glen Forest Cemetery, contributions which were well appreciated by the deceased’s family and the labour fraternity. I am happy that we gave our long-time friend a befitting send-off and this dedicated heroine of the labour movement will also be in ZEWU history books for the contribution she made over the years.
There is no doubt that the year 2019 has been a challenging year for workers across all sectors of industry because of the worsening macroeconomic situation which continues to ravage the country with no permanent solution in sight.
Our members were not spared from the menacing economic problems which has reduced them to become working destitute because of poverty and unsustainable wages, meaningless allowances and Cost of Living Adjustments.
In order to address this sensitive issue of low salaries, the union is working flat out to engage management of all energy sector enterprises to pay workers using the interbank rate. We feel this is the only way that will salvage workers against these low salaries currently obtaining across the industry.
I am humbled comrades that besides these deepening problems, you have rallied behind the union through and through making your membership our strength. As a brand organization which has stood firm in a volatile situation, our efficiency and effectiveness in representing our members has separated us from other fly-by night minute unions in the energy industry whose main objective is to cause confusion by dividing workers and antagonize industrial harmony.
As I always say, trade unionism is all about unity, transparency, solidarity and aggressiveness to influence change that will better the lives of workers not only in the energy sector but everywhere in the world.
Comrades, as we reflect on some achievements we have made as an organization we have also in equal measure encountered challenges along the way which has made it difficult for us to fulfil our mandate.
As a union, we are worried by the continued increase of fatal accidents at the workplace across our sector. We have reports of other workers who have died because of workplace related accidents throughout the county.
We are therefore calling upon management across all energy companies to ensure that they prioritize on workplace safety and adopt zero accident free workplaces in 2020 and beyond.
In order to mitigate this crisis, the union is also going to roll out safety and health training programmes to compliment efforts done by some progressive companies who are doing tremendous work in conducting safety programmes at their workplaces.
It is important that other companies should follow suit and intensify training on safety and health to minimize fatalities and injuries of workers. It is sad to note that families continue to lose their loved ones and bread winners because of workplace related accidents while others perish in road accidents in the course of their duties.
Employers should investigate with the assistance of the National Social Security Authority such incidents with the view of ensuring that the victims are fully compensated as provided by the law.
It is important for workers and employers to note that issues of safety are everyone’s responsibility. In regards to developments at our stand in Meyrick Park in Harare, I am excited to inform you that the engineers submitted architectural drawing for the ZEWU college and are currently working on the structural drawings and once they are complete they shall submit the two drafts to the Harare City Council for approval. Soil tests were done with the assistance of the experts from the University of Zimbabwe.
CDs, resources permitting, training programmes will be intensified in the coming year as we aim to increase capacity building to our leadership structures and the general membership.
I wish to remind the membership that the strength and impact of social movements like unions depends on effective organising. We should continue to find strategies to attract non- members and according l y increase our influence in the industry.
As a way of ensuring that the union maintains its presence on the international trade union radar, the national youth chairperson, Cede Christian Ranji and the General Secretary, Cede Martin Chikuni participated in the SSAEN meeting held on 12-13 March 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The meeting came up with 2019 action plan which will help strengthen IndustriALL affiliates from Sub Saharan Africa and assist them to achieve their objectives. IndustriALL convened its Sub- Sahar a Africa Regional Conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on the 7-11 October 2019.
The Conference brought together more than 200 delegates, drawn from over 40 IndustriALL affiliates from the Sub Sahara Africa region. I am excited to report that our own Youth Chair person, Cde Ranji, was at this Conference elected the vice Chairperson of IndustriALL sub-Saharan Africa Young Workers Committee. I therefore take this opportunity to congratulate her for raising ZEWU flag high. This bears testimony that ZEWU is a force that has the capacity to produce cadres that can compete and articulate issues at international level.
Comrades, ZEWU should continue prioritization young workers’ activities in view of the current challenges facing the union which need energetic young cadres. There is need to persistently invest in young leaders, groom and take them on board as the organisation performs its traditional functions.
The union should vigorously seek to groom young leaders to preserve institutional memory and perpetuate continuity. We should all be reminded that youths are the vanguard of the organization.
The youths commemorated International Youth Day in two centres only namely, Harare and Bulawayo under the IndustriALL and ZEWU banners. They also embarked on an organizing drive that covered Harare, Bulawayo, Bindura and Mutare.
However, there is need to visit outstanding companies to improve the visibility of the organization and counter yellow unions which are peddling lies to members as a way of discrediting our supersonic union.
Colleagues, the union is worried by the increase of cases involving dishonesty at the workplace which normally leads to dismissals and suspensions. I am urging all members to refrain from engaging in any act which compromises their job security. Let us remain faithful and continue to demand what is lawfully ours.
The union will continue to support the advancement of women issues and help them strengthen their structures by carrying out capacity building programmes. We are making frantic efforts to ensure that membership regalia is produced and distributed to members. Calendars are also being produced and will be distributed to members soon.
Colleagues, it is my pleasure to welcome Cde Mavis Banda who joined ZEWU family in January 2019 as Bulawayo Office Assistant. I kindly request the leadership, membership and staff to give her optimal support in the interest of the organisation. We have so far enjoyed working with her and therefore take this opportunity to thank some of the leaders who have guided her in the execution of her duties.
In conclusion colleagues, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone of you for your continued support and rallying behind the union in both good and trying times. I am humbled by the support you give me and the leadership during the course of the year.
Let me remind you that trade unionism is a game of numbers and everyone be an organizer who should continue to recruit new members to ZEWU- the union of choice.
Even though the economy is in recession, we can manage if we soldier on. We have a very long journey to decent work. The organisation shall continue to work tirelessly for the benefit of members, guided by the values, principles and objectives outlined in the ZEWU constitution.
We shall fight against impoverishment and oppression of mankind based on human dignity, equality and freedom.
Always remember that, challenges are what makes us strong as a united force and as we enter the year 2020 let us remain united and focused because the darkest hour is before dawn.
I wish you a peaceful festive season and a prosperous 2020. Even though everything looks gloomy, the Lord will guide us and give us the wisdom to overcome these challenges.
Mike Steamer Ndlovu