As we commemorate Labour Day today, we look at the labour landscape in Zambia, we have no good reason to celebrate. Companies are laying off workers, just a few days ago Avic International put over 100 workers on forced leave. Miners are being laid off and the employment freeze at KCM does nothing to build confidence.
The number of public institutions that are struggling with payments of salaries is growing by day. ZAMPOST, the Councils, National Housing Authority, the Universities and even civil servants are not being paid on time. Yet today they will be required to line up and “celebrate” labour day.
The economic environment has become hostile to business. The cost of doing business has gone up and as if that is not enough, ZESCO is about to increase its tariff by over 90%. Interest rates keep going up, and the high cost of borrowing has caused a large company like Lamasat to go into receivership with its 700 staff facing the uncertainty of unemployment. If Lamasat with its credit lines can experience financial woes from a slowdown in business , an SME has little chance of survival.
In UPND, we are happy to take up the challenge of changing our economic fortunes. We know what to do to keep Zambia growing so that our economy can generate good jobs for Zambians. The only way to do that, is to transform the economy, create new opportunities, that means restructuring our industries and reshaping our jobs. Zambia has potential that remains unexplored due to bad leadership. The same private sector that is supposed to be creating jobs is being muzzled by policy inconsistencies and public debt. Today it is VAT tomorrow its GST, next not GST but VAT, this is the business environment in Zambia.
As for UPND, our approach is simply to transform Zambia into a 21st century economy. A 21st century economy is one that is driven by right skills, right knowledge and productivity to mention but a few. As UPND we will think long-term and comprehensively to include Zambians with disabilities in our workforce, protect people who choose to organize a union in their workplaces, that is the decent thing to do. The unions in Zambia are dead, this is the reason civil servants can go for days without pay. Such a cadre can never be productive as they are demotivated.
On labour Day, we should remember that jobs are about more than getting a salary. They allow us to take care of our family and loved ones, to save for a rainy day and allow us to make plans. Let us commemorate this day with this deep reflections.