Zimbabweans join workers around the world in celebrating worker's day.
Despite there being an government of national unity in Zimbabwe, times
are still very tough for the country's workers.
Zimbabwe has one
of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Lovemore Matombo, the
president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) says only six
percent of the workforce is formally employed.
The ZCTU boss
notes that his organization's struggle for a better deal for those
still working has put it on a collision course with the government in
Tensions in Zimbabwe usually rise on May Day. But
Matombo says with the new government of national unity this year could
"This year's celebrations are a bit different
because the political environment appears to be giving us a bit of
space to organize our people without being intimidated by the police or
the Central Intelligence Organization. So to that extent, this year's
May Day would be more peaceful than we have had before. But of course
in as far as the plight of the workers is concerned, the situation
remains the same," said Matombo.
Matombo added that while the
plight of the workers is still a priority, his organization supports
the new government and is involved in negotiations with the government
and employers to get the workers a better deal. He says, however, that
should these efforts fail, industrial action is always an option.
cannot rule out any form of industrial action but what we are doing is
to say let's give government opportunity and we have put across our
need to increase salaries for the Zimbabwean workers through the
Tripartite Negotiating Forum," he said.
But while Matombo is
cautiously optimistic about the new government and the apparent
cease-fire, he is urging Zimbabwean workers to remain vigilant.
are saying they need to be vigilant because our theme this year for May
Day is 'it may be dawn; workers intensify the struggle,'" he said.
Matombo says 2008 was the most difficult year for Zimbabweans, whether they had a job or not.
July 2008 inflation reached a staggering 231 million percent. By the
end of the year the Zimbabwe dollar was virtually worthless and the
government authorized transactions in hard currency.
Though Zimbabweans are now paid in US dollars, the union chief says they are still some of the lowest paid in the world.