Today, workers in Zambia join their colleagues the world over in celebrating and honoring their economic and social achievements.
Zambian workers have every reason to celebrate because they have sustained this country through very difficult and trying times when all appeared lost, when the economic depression coupled with the collapse of the mines appeared destined to turn Zambia into another failed African Banana republic.
A dogged combination of progressive economic policies, hard work and resilience by the people of Zambia in whatever calling they served has seen the country emerge from the brink into a vibrant economy.
The Zambian worker has been at the brunt of political transformation from the socialist controlled economy espoused by UNIUP to liberal economic philosophy enunciated by the MMD.
In between there were casualties, victims of economic adjustment from dominant state control to greater private control.
This migration saw the emergence of Tuntemba, the small scale business enterprise; it saw the emergence of the Minis bus from the large UBZ monolith that dominated the country’s transport industry.
Indeed the Zambian worker expected more money in the pocket and less tax as the Patriotic Front assumed power in 2011.
Sadly both promises have yet to be fulfilled. If anything a contradictory situation has arisen where the ordinary worker in private industry has a minimum wage of less than K1million Government has awarded a minimum wage of K2.9million to the public workers.
This contradiction is totally unhelpful because public workers are remunerated from the efforts, sweat and toil of workers in the private sector. It is the rock breakers on the Copperbelt who mine the copper that brings revenue to the Government. Indeed it is the factory workers earning K800, 000 who create the wealth that enables Government to pay public service workers a minimum wage that is almost three times the statutory norm.
This arrangement is iniquitous and is bound to create tension if Unions were to consider the contradictions seriously.
It is our hope that Government still has to consider an overarching wages and income policy that will bring sanity and equity to the labour market. It is not good enough that grant aided institutions which are totally dependent ant on grants pay six or seven times more than the institutions that generate the wealth.
Similarly it is not fair that there are yawning disparities between the private and public sectors, with the later enjoying more favorable terms than the private sector.
It is equally disheartening that a steady process of “dezambianisation” seems to be emerging in the mining industry where menial tasks that can be performed by Zambians are being entrusted to foreigners.
We carry a story of page 3, which is a lamentation by Zambian workers bemoaning their plight as they see job opportunities dwindling.
We are optimistic, we carry the hope that the Zambian worker will triumph, outlive the politician and make this country a better environment for all after all:
“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.”