Today, across Zambia workers continue to take centre stage on the national platform.
The escalation of walk outs and strikes, legal and illegal, have characterized labour relations.
Many workers continue to say they are unable to live on their salaries. This is despite the minimum wage review of 2012.
Among the workers that have faced this fate are employees of the South African retailer, Shoprite. About 3,000 workers who went on strike over pay were fired. Shoprite, subsequently backtracked on the sackings following the minister of Labour, Fackson Shamenda’s, intervention.
For many minimum wage workers that have gone on strike trying to persuade them enjoy what they have, given the recent wage review may seem irrational as companies have simply passed on the increase in wages to consumers. This means that the increase of prices on commodities has cancelled any gains worker got from the wage rise.
Not long after the Shoprite dispute, Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), owned by London-listed Vedanta Resources planned to lay off more than 1,500 workers. The company announced plans to retrench about 7% of its workforce of 22,000, including contractors, by March 2014 as it begins to mechanise operations.
It would take President Michael Sata to threaten to revoke the licence of KCM, before the company reconsidered its plans. In fact, KCM’s CEO Kishore Kumar, eventually left Zambia due to his unwillingness to dialogue with government over the retrenchment.
On November 8th, Shamenda was quoted as saying Kumar will never work in Zambia and he should forget about his work permit, as he will only be allowed to visit Zambia as a tourist.
It would seem corporations have all the leverage while unskilled, undereducated employees have none.
The Ministry of Labour has had its hands full trying to cope with various labour dynamics occurring in the many sectors.