UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE/ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE/ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE
Edition: #28 15 October 1997
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PUBLIC SERVICE WORKERS' HOPE FOR BETTER CONDITIONS OF SERVICE DASHED
The conflict gap between government and trade unions is widening and in the wake of the confrontation, virtually every member of the Zambian society is feeling the pinch. Round-table meetings between the two sides seem not to be of any help.In fact, on some occasions attempts at bridging the gap have only fueled the hot tempers, especially those of the trade unionists. Indications though, are that the unions are fighting a losing battle.
Effects of the conflict were most adverse recently when members of two public workers unions went on strike to demand for an implementation of a 1997 collective agreement and for the start of negotiations for 1998 conditions of service.The Civil Servants Union of Zambia (CSUZ) and the National Union of PublicService Workers (NUPSW), tired of government's apparent dilly-dallying in getting to the negotiation table, decided to use some arm-twisting tactics.
The union leaders called for a three-day work stoppage in the hope that this would pressure government, as the employer, to expedite the process of implementing the conditions of service agreed on and start negotiations for fresh conditions.It is a statutory obligation for employers and respective unions to agree on fresh conditions of service annually.The government tried, but in vain, to prevent the strike by announcing that it has always been ready to negotiate and blamed the union leaders for the delay in getting to the talks table.Government also warned that going on strike was illegal in the given circumstances and that the workers risked losing their jobs.
It did not help. On cue, operations in several government offices and institutions around the country came to a virtual standstill as the thousands of public service union members heeded the call for a work stoppage.Most hit were hospitals and the judiciary.The withdrawal of labour by the union members in hospitals caused panic amonsgst both management and the patients.In the major hospitals in the key cities of Lusaka, Ndola and Kitwe, out-patient wings had to either be closed or were manned by management staff who were barely able to cope with the high demand for attention.The few members of staff who could not join the strike turned their attention to critical cases and student nurses were mobilised to help.
Court cases were put on hold as court attendants and some magistrates joined the strike.In government offices, drivers, cleaners, messengers and other junior members of staff stayed away from offices to also virtually paralize operations.
The government again warned that the strike action was illegal and urged the workers, particularly those considered essential, to retun to work.The Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) noted that the strike action was regratable but stressed their sympathy with the workers.ZCTU president Fackson Shamenda said that government was to blame for the strike action because it was not effecting what had been agreed upon.On the second day of the strike, more joined the stay away and government decided on a new course of action - the courts.
Government, through the Public Service Management Division, obtained an Industrial Relations Court injuction restraining the workers from continuing the strike.The court's chairman Naboth Mwanza in granting the injunction, warned that anyone who failed to comply with the order to return to work, could be charged for contempt of court - a charge that attracts a jail term. The two unions, on the advice of their lawyer Kelvin Hang'andu, complied and called on their members to return to work the next day.
The strike action riled the government with Labour minister Dr Peter Machingwa threatening to de-register unions that go on illegal strikes. He said government has always been ready for talks and saw no reason why the unions should have gone on strike. A minister of Labour is empowered by law to de-register any union that breaks industrial relations laws. Some labour leaders have noted that this is an unfair law.They note that as an interested party in labour disputes, government could not be expected to be neutral.
The strike, however, seems to have stirred some positive action from government and the truth on why negotiations have stalled.A week after the strike fizzled out, government opened its doors to union representatives for the workers' demands to be officially tabled.CSUZ general secretary Japhet Monde and his NUPSW counterpart Davis Chingoni presented the workers' demands for the 1998 conditions of service but they may have a long wait before any serious talks can take root.Public Service Management Division permanent secretary Joshua Kanganja says that the union leaders have made numerous demands which need thorough studying before the two sides can meet again.He says though that a date has been given to the unions on when the government negotiators are expected to be ready to meet the union leaders.
But Dr Machungwa says that before negotiations start, the number of workers in the civil service must be reduced drastically in line with a Public Service Reform Programme.He notes that government "cannot continue to negotiate for increased salaries with the two unions when we still have a blottedcivil service.We must first bring it to manageable size.''Dr Machingwa also admits that government resources are depreciating and cannot, therefore, increase wages every year as expected by workers.
Monde, however, says that his union would not attend the talks if government insists on discusing the Public Reform Programme first.He says that the CSUZ agrees that the issue of the public reforms was important but that it is irrelevant, for now, to what was in contention.He adds: "The problem is that this government is intransigent.It only moves when we act."Whether or not the CSUZ and the NUPSW will be able to effect another nation-wide strike looks doubtful.With the threat of de-registration hanging over their heads, the unions, for now, seem lost for a course of action to take to increase pressure on government to expedite implementation of their demands.
And with unions split by differences, the possibility of the once formidable tool of other unions joining the cause in solidarity, also seems remote. The Mine Workers Union (MUZ), one of the biggest unions in the country broke away from the mother-body, the ZCTU as did several other unions.The divisions among the unions are widening with splinter unions representing same groups of workers being formed.Notable splinter groups have been formed among teachers and electricity workers.Some ZCTU leaders contend that the divisions are sponsored by government in an attempt to weaken the unions.
The splits are, however, also presenting a new frontline of pressure on government.Members of a recently formed Secondary School Teachers Union of Zambia (SESTUZ) have been on strike to protest against government's apparent refusal to recognise their union.The strike has in some parts of the country triggered students' protests.
The bottom-line though, is that government has most of the aces that will determine when and how demands by the public services workers will be implemented.
1. a:FIRES CONTINUE TO HAUNT ZAMBIA
An unprecedented spate of fires gutting buildings in Zambia has continued. In two weeks after the gutting a skyscraper in Lusaka, three major fires have been recorded in various parts of the country.
Seven children and a woman were burnt to death when a hut they were in caught fire in unexplained circumstances in Mporokoso, a town in the Northern Province.Days later a cinema hall in Kitwe, on the Copperbelt, caught fire which caused extensive damage to property before it was put out. Then a church and homes for 15 families were burnt in Livingstone, the Southern Province capital.There were no casaulties but again the cause of the fire was not established.
b: POLICE PROBE ON SOCIETY HOUSE FIRE CONTINUES
Police probing for what could have caused a fire that gutted Society House have questioned some of the occupants of the 19-storey building.A police spokeman declined to disclose who has been questioned in the investigation. Noone, though, has been detained in connection with the probe.
Society House, Zambia's second tallest building, caught fire recently, gutting its 10 upper floors.The fire started on the 10 floor which houses the head-office of a local Bank, Prudence Bank.
c:A private-owned radio station which was destroyed in a fire that burnt Society House, has resumed transmission from another location within Lusaka. The popular Radio Phoenix ``rose from the ashes" after extensive support from both local and international support. The station transmits only to Lusaka and surrounding areas of up to 200kms.
2.CONTROVERSY MARS MMD ELECTIONS
Disputes have characterised MMD elections for positions in the low ranks of the ruling political party.Several members have been barred from contesting the polls for, ward, and constituency elections while others have protested the manner in which the elections have been conducted.In some areas, the elections have been cancelled because of irregualries which include the permitting of non-members to vote.
But MMD elections chairman Ackson Sejani has said the elections have so far been generally on course.The elections will be climaxed by contests for provincial positions.Already, there is heated campaigning in some provinces, particularly in Lusaka where the post of chairman, is being contest for by the province's most influential men, the incumbent Christopher Chawinga and provincial minister Sonny Mulenga.
3.GOVERNMENT TO SCRAP GRADE SEVEN EXAMINATIONS
In an effort to improve Zambia's literacy levels, government plans to scrap grade sven examinations, to enable each child have basic education of up to at least grade nine.Schools chief inspector Christopher Zulu said a grade nine school drop out had a better chance of coping with the challenges of unemployment than one who leaves school at grade seven.
Zulu did not state though when this plan will be effected.This proposal has, however, been on the drawing boards for over 10 years.It could not be implemented because of a shortage of places in secondary schools.
4.CHILUBA URGED TO HELP RECOVER COMPENSATION FOR SLAIN STUDENT
The family of a Zambian student who was murdered in the then Soviet Union five yesrs ago, has appealed to President Chiluba to help get money it is owed as compensation.The family was awarded $21,320 by a Russian Court as compensation for the murder of Edward Bwalya in 1992, but the money has not been remitted.Bwalya was killed by fellow students at the Ukraine University.
5.UNIP ACCUSES MMD OF PLANNING A THIRD TERM FOR CHILUBA
The main opposition party UNIP, claims that the MMD is planning to change the Republican constitution to allow President Chiluba contest for a third term of office.UNIP spokesman Bwendo Mulengela charged that the MMD was preparing an amendment to the constitution which currently limits a presidential term of office to two.
But the MMD government has dispelled the charge with government spokesman David Mpamba saying that Chiluba is a man of integrity who wouldn't go against his word and try to force his way for a thir term.The next presidential elections are due in the year 2001.Chiluba defeated Kenneth Kaunda in the 1991 polls for his first term and he retained the presidency in 1996.
6.a - ZDC KEEPS FALLING APART
The once formidable Zambia Democratic Congress(ZDC) has continued to lose key members through resignations, with the latest being the influential vice-president for youth and student affairs, Fain Mwikisa.Another recent resignation has been that of the party's national trustee Phillip Maambo.
Last month, the party suffered one of its biggest blows when co-founder of the party Derrick Chitala resigned from politics and the party.Chitala was the party's general secretary.The ZDC has been rocked by divisions with some key members said to have been expelled but refusing to accept the decision and continuing conducting party affairs.
7.SOCCER FANS WORRY ABOUT DELAY IN RECRUTING NATIONAL SOCCER COACH
Zambian soccer lovers are increasingly getting worried about the delay by the Football Association of Zambia in recruiting a full-time national soccer coach.The concern is that time is running out for a coach to adequately prepae the team for the next Africa Cup of National finals scheduled February, 1998 in Burkina Faso.
FAZ has short-listed six foreign coaches who have applied for the job, but there is no certaintly about when the desired one will take up the position. Sports minister Samuel Miyanda has, however, said that government which is expected to meet the coach's emoluments, has no money yet.
Zambia has been without a full-time national team coach since April when Zambian coach Fred Mwila was pressured to resign after a string of dismal performances.The team has since been under another local coach, George Mungwa, who led Zambia to a Confederation of Southern Africa Football Association (COSAFA) championship victory and qualification for the Africa Cup finals.
From: AfricaNN@inform-bbs.dk (Africa_news Network) Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997 10:52:53 +0200 Subject: ZAMBIA NEWS ONLINE #28 Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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