Federation of Free Trade Unions of Zambia (FFTUZ), President, Joyce Nonde-Simukoko has said that she does not support the suggestion of merging workers’ unions to form industrial cluster labour movements to represent workers in the country.
And a splinter union from the Workers Union of TAZARA (WUTAZ) has been formed and successfully affiliated with FFTUZ to represent workers in the railway industry.
Mrs. Simukoko said the proposed amalgamation of trade unions to form specific sector or industrial unions was not the answer to the various challenges that the labour movement was facing in Zambia.
“The calls for one union, one industry are against the International Labour Organization and our constitution which grants us the right to association… this was amended in the 1990s to allow for workers to belong to the union of their choice”, Mrs. Simukoko said.
There have been calls from some section of society for unions to merge in order to strengthen their voice, arguing that the unions are too fragmented to fight for the plight of workers in the country.
But Mrs. Simukoko said there was no legal provision to support the calls adding that the constitution permits workers to belong to nions of their choice through the right to Freedom of Association.
She said trade unions were voluntary associations and were not competitors saying each union should strive to represent its members effectively.
“workers have constitutional rights to belong to any union of their choice… it is not because we have a lot of unions that is making us fail to effectively represent our members but the selfishness in the leadership of some these unions and the lack of understanding of some of our members on why they belong to unions because they fail to hold their leaders accountable,” Mrs. Simukoko said.
She said there was need for the workers and union leaders to acquaint themselves with the country’s labour laws for them to appreciate the role of trade unions.
“We do not form unions to compete with other unions…. Unions are there to represent and bargain for workers so we do not support calls for joining together of unions, there is need to understand these roles,” Mrs. Simukoko said.
Mrs. Simukoko said this during the launch of the Crews and Allied Workers Union of Zambia (CRAWUZ) which is a splinter union from the Workers Union of TAZARA (WUTAZ) in Kapiri Mposhi yesterday.
CRAWUZ which has since affiliated to FFTUZ unlike WUTAZ which is an affiliate of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has garnered membership from employees working in the Railways industry in Zambia.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Simukoko has challenged members of the newly formed union to observe work place rules and regulations and work hard for them to rightly claim their entitlements.
She noted that it will not suffice for the workers to abrogate labour regulations and at the same time ask to be appropriately remunerated and their interests attended to by their respective managements.
“We need to change our work culture, to observe work ethics not to neglect duty but to put in our best so that even as we bargain we will have justification we shall not protect any worker who will be found intentionally breaking rules and regulations,” Mrs. Simukoko said
And CRAWUZ President Bevis Silumbe said the railway workers resolved to move out from WUTAZ and form their own union because of inadequate representation under WUTAZ.
Mr. Silumbe said WUTAZ failed to effectively represent its members a situation which resulted in TAZARA Management to willfully exploit workers thereby ignoring the Zambian Labour laws.
He said salaries delay for months and most workers have faced unlawful suspensions, charges and threats of dismissal issues that WUTAZ has failed to address.
“We wrote to ZCTU that WUTAZ has excessively failed to fight for the workers plight which resulted in the management to introduce unfavorable conditions of service but to no avail so we decided to proceed to the philosophy that if you can’t beat them, you leave them… hence the formation of CRAWUZ and affiliating to FFTUZ which we feel will address our plight”, Mr. Silumbe said.
The Union pledged to support and work with TAZARA management and government in finding the lasting solutions to the challenges that have beleaguered the railway industry in Zambia.
The formation of CRAWUZ came into effect after the signing of Recognition Agreement with TAZARA Management last year.
Meanwhile, TAZARA has stated that the launch of another workers union at TAZARA was a great demonstration by management to allow workers to form and join a union of their choice.
TAZARA Operations Manager, Philemon Muntali, noted that the widespread work stoppages experienced at the railway company whenever there was a dispute were counter-productive.
Mr. Muntali hoped the formation of another workers union will lessen the strikes at TAZARA and engage management in resolving all labour related disputes amicably to ensure industrial harmony and improve the performance of the railway company.