GOVERNMENT should beef up staffing levels of inspectors in the Ministry of Labour to record any meaningful achievement following the introduction of a labour toll-free call centre to receive labour-related complaints.
The Government should, in fact, decentralise the inspectorate department at the Ministry of Labour to districts so that staff can easily attend to labour complaints.
We say this because we foresee a lot of labour-related complaints flooding the labour call centre that has been introduced.
Some labour complaints might be genuine while others will be simply sheer lack of knowledge of labour laws and regulations.
There is also victimisation of employees and also labour disputes arising from workers’ disregard for their obligations, all in the name of knowing their rights.
It is important that the Ministry of Labour equips itself with the necessary information and material to be equal to the task when complaints start flowing to the labour call centre.
The workers and employers should have labour officers near them who can immediately resolve their complaints whenever the need arises.
It would be frustrating for workers and employers to raise complaints which cannot promptly be attended to by the Ministry of Labour.
To win any measure of respect, the Ministry of Labour should not take lightly President Edgar Lungu’s query.
When President Lungu spoke on the toll-free line, he wanted to know the reason why he could not take leave even after working for over a year?
This question is an important labour issue that must be attended to by labour experts.
While some people may brush aside the presidential query, others, including employees and employers, would want to know which category of workers can work without taking leave.
They would also want to know what incentives are applicable when one does not take leave after 12 months of continued service.
It is important for the Ministry of Labour to understand that many workers in Zambia are not very familiar with labour laws.
In these days of massive unemployment, many workers are more interested in the jobs offered than the conditions attached to their employment. Or they are afraid to ask in case the employer changes his or her mind.
Others do not even receive a job offer letter as they are taken on by word of mouth.
This scenario has been the major driver of conflicts when the worker and the employer disagree on labour matters.
Therefore, it is important for the inspectorate department of the Ministry of Labour to be beefed up so that the flow of complaints through the use of toll-free lines is attended to promptly.
This is achievable if workers and employers can easily talk to a labour officer near them after using the toll-free line.
It would also be a disservice to the workers and employers to remain in the dark on the progress of their complaints after using the toll-free line.
Otherwise, the introduction of the labour toll-free call centre line is a great industrial relations innovation and is more than welcome.