Zimbabwe among worst labour rights violators

The High Court of Zimbabwe.

The High Court of Zimbabwe.

By Alois Vinga

THE International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) 2016 Global Rights Index report has ranked Zimbabwe among countries with the worst labour conditions globally, the Financial Gazette can reveal.
According to ITUC, Zimbabwe is ranked position 83 out of the 141 countries surveyed.
Such a poor ranking means that there is no guarantee of labour rights protection in Zimbabwe, making the country unattractive in luring skills and expertise that may be needed to spur economic growth.
A key feature for countries ranked in the same category as Zimbabwe is that despite there being clear cut policies on paper that spell out certain rights for the worker as well as having the relevant legislation in place, employees have no access to these rights and are exposed to unfair labour practices.
The report captures that in 2016 alone, Zimbabwe recorded some of the worst infringements on labour matters.
High Court judge, Justice Maxwell Takuva, barred leader of the Zimbabwe Horticulture Agro-industries and General Agricultural Workers’ Union’s Raymond Sixpence, from holding labour meetings at Tavistock Estates in Beatrice.
The court made the ruling after the farm owner, Cristopher Hawgood, took Sixpence to court on allegations of interfering with the farm’s operations and accusing him of underpaying his employees.
Takuva later granted the peace order to Hawgood at the end of February 2016 and barred Sixpence from visiting the farm.
In another incident, Zimbabwe Republic Police details, in January this year, beat up protesters who were demanding their salaries.
Police blocked a street march through central Harare by a handful of protesters demanding the immediate payment of outstanding salaries to civil servants.
The placard waving protesters, led by the Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (RTUZ), marched from Harare’s busy Market Square bus terminus heading for New Government Complex where they intended to present their petition to the Finance and Public Service ministries.
Anti-riot police officers, however, blocked them near the complex.
RTUZ secretary general, Obert Masaraura, and activists Robson Chere and Pride Mkono were beaten up by the police before being taken to Harare Central Police Station where they were later released without any charges against them.
Rutendo Kawadza, an activist with the Zimbabwe Activists Alliance who joined the march as well, and was hospitalised following injuries sustained during the ordeal.
The courts were also criticised for passing judgments that authorised selective punishment of employees.
The 2016 ITUC Global Rights Index shows that workers’ rights were severely weakened in almost all regions of the world through, for instance, crackdowns on the right to free speech and assembly.
The Middle East and North Africa were again recorded as being among the worst region for workers.
The complete lack of freedom of association and the kafala system, which subjects millions of migrant workers to the risk of forced labour, continued to be pervasive throughout the Gulf states.
While the continued denial of or threats to democracy and rights in the Middle East have escalated violence, oppression and denial of freedom of association.
Countries in Europe and Central Asia continue to offer the best protection of trade union rights to workers, but at the same time experience the starkest deterioration of those rights on a continuous trend.
The report notes that there is a dramatic increase in the interference and restriction of free speech and peaceful assembly.
Threats of terrorist activity are being used by governments in order to push for security agendas that undermine the right to freedom of assembly and expression, which not only forms the pillars of democratic societies, but also enable workers and citizens to have a say in decision-making.
Restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, including severe crackdowns increased by 22 percent, with 50 out of 141 countries surveyed recording restrictions.
ITUC’s Global Rights Index ranks 141 countries against 97 internationally recognised indicators to assess where workers’ rights are best protected, in law and in practice.
“We are witnessing the closing of democratic space and an increase in insecurity, fear and intimidation of working people. The speed, at which attacks on rights are being forced through…shows an alarming trend for working people and their families,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC general-secretary.
The report notes that, repression of workers’ rights goes hand in hand with increased government control over freedom of expression, assembly and other fundamental civil liberties, with too many governments seeking to consolidate power.
ITUC, which documents violations of internationally recognised collective labour rights by governments and employers, sent out questionnaires to 333 national trade unions in 162 countries asking them to report violations of workers’ rights.
The process of ranking the countries also involved regional meetings with human and trade union rights experts where the questionnaire was disseminated, explained and then filled out.
ITUC contacted unions directly by phone and email to confirm relevant facts on violations.
Legal researchers then analysed national legislation and identified sections which are not adequately protecting labour rights.
Countries were then rated over a scale of one to five with one being the best rating and five being the worst rating.
A high score effectively means that a large number of violations were committed which in turn results in a poor rating.

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