The Patriotic Front (PF) government is not being truthful in their dealings with unions over the current collective bargaining negotiations, says Zambia Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) president Leonard Hikaumba.
And the labour movement has condemned the PF government for insisting on the imposition of the two-year wage freeze despite numerous representations by trade unions to have it lifted.
“The congress would like to reiterate that the wage freeze is illegal because the unions were not consulted. Government merely announced its decision to impose a wage freeze for the year 2014 and 2015,” Mr Hikaumba said.
He accused government of trying to buy time by holding protracted negotiations with public sector unions when it was well known that there would not be any salary increase because the 2014 budget did not provide for any.
“This is against the principles of free and fair collective bargaining, and defeats the whole purpose of achieving decent work aimed at promoting the welfare of workers,” Mr Hikaumba said.
He said government was employing all sorts of delaying tactics to unduly slow down the process so much that by the time the issue was concluded, the year would have come to an end.
“We remind government that the imposition of the wage freeze would back-fire in its face because public services workers are being frustrated by the ever increasing cost of living which has eroded their real incomes,” Mr Hikaumba said.
He said during negotiations, there had been no movements by government in terms of responding to the unions’ demand for wage increases.
“The government negotiating team has maintained that government has no money to effect any wage increase,” Mr Hikaumba said.
He said the union would not support illegalities such as the wage freeze and appealed to the Head of State to intervene.
“We are watching and following with keen interest the negotiations which are coming next week between councils and unions,” Mr Hikaumba said.
He explained that council workers did not benefit from the salary increment awarded to other public sector workers in 2013.
Mr Hikaumba hoped that councils would not use the government imposed wage freeze to deny workers any wage increase.
And commenting on the conciliatory stage of the collective bargaining process, Mr Hikaumba said the labour movement was expecting government and the unions to exhaust the matter before the end of next week.