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Zimbabwe Prohibits More Workers from Striking - 2003-06-15

The Zimbabwe government, stung by a week of nationwide strikes, has widened the list of workers forbidden to stop work. The action followed the warning late last week from President Robert Mugabe that mass action, including national strikes, will never take place again.

Zimbabwe's privately-owned newspaper, the Sunday Standard said the new law was published Friday, but Labor Ministry officials could not be reached for comment.

The Standard said the new law bans veterinarians and pharmacists from striking as well as workers in health clinics, fire stations, telecommunications, electricity plants and public transportation.

But union officials said the move will have little impact on workers. The deputy secretary-general of Zimbabwe's Congress of Trade Unions, Collin Gwiyo, described the new law as "a desperate measure" and said "if workers feel their grievances are not being addressed, they will always turn to the streets."

Earlier this month, civil service workers largely ignored the rules and joined in a five-day strike organized by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Many businesses closed down, almost paralyzing Zimbabwe's economy.

Scores of MDC supporters were beaten and arrested in street demonstrations and the nation's economy was further damaged by sympathy strikes. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested and charged with treason for calling the strike. He has spent the past week in jail.

Last month electricity workers went on strike for better pay, which worsened the number of power cuts, which are now a regular part of Zimbabwe's life.

The government has announced large salary increases for all grades of civil servants, giving the lowest-paid worker a minimum pay equal to about $40.