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2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Zambia

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2007
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Zambia, 9 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca020.html [accessed 25 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 11,000,000
Capital: Lusaka
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

There were several incidents during the year of repression against trade union action. Workers at a Chinese-owned mine were shot and wounded for going on strike, while the state electricity company called in the police who reportedly arrested and imprisoned striking workers. The company dismissed the strike leaders. There was increasing concern over the behaviour of foreign owned companies, particularly those under Chinese ownership.

Trade union rights in law

Restrictions on the right to join and form unions: Workers have the right to join and form trade unions. In 2005 the Home Affairs Minister announced that police officers would no longer be allowed to join a trade union.

All unions must be registered, but must have at least 25 members to be registered and, in principle, there can only be one union per industry.

Anti-union discrimination is prohibited by law, which provides for redress, including reinstatement for workers fired as a result of union activities.

Collective bargaining is recognised and in the private sector is carried out through joint councils. Civil servants negotiate directly with the government.

Restrictions on the right to strike: Workers have the right to strike, except those engaged in essential services, which exceeds the ILO definition by including fire fighting, sewerage, and certain mining operations.

Workers enjoy certain legal protections against an employer's retribution for strike activities. However, the right to strike is subject to so many procedural requirements that it is near to impossible for workers to hold a legal strike. As a result, no legal strikes have been held in Zambia since 1994.

The Industrial and Labour Relations Act empowers a police officer to arrest someone without needing a warrant, if they are believed to be on strike in an essential service or are likely to damage property. Police can impose a fine and up to six months' imprisonment. The ILO has said that this punishment is disproportionate and has asked the government to amend it.

Revisions of labour laws: The government has been requested by the ILO for many years to amend the law to remove the above-mentioned restrictions and bring it into line with the principles of freedom of association. The Government indicated in 2006 that its Technical Tripartite Committee had amended its industrial relations law and that the amendments were awaiting adoption by the Tripartite Consultative Labour Council and adoption by parliament.

Trade union rights in practice

Anti-union discrimination prevalent: Anti-union discrimination continues to exist, against public and private sector workers, and the procedures for legal redress are often not effective due to a lack of resources. Many officials of municipal workers' trade unions have been dismissed for union activities and the government continues to deem strikes by workers in local government to be against the public interest.

Private sector employers artificially divide workplaces in order to keep the number of workers below the minimum threshold of 25 workers, so they will not be compelled to recognise a union. There were reportedly plans to lower the threshold to 15.

The Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has reported a steadily deteriorating situation for basic workers' rights in the private sector, including in multinationals present in the country. New workers in some private sector companies, particularly multinationals, are asked to sign a statement choosing a job over a union. Those who are not prepared to give up their right to unionise are not hired. There is particular concern about the behaviour of Chinese multinationals in the country and their failure to respect the rights of Zambian workers.

Increasing reluctance to bargain: While collective bargaining is relatively widespread, national and municipal authorities have been increasingly reluctant to bargain with their employees or their union. Disputes drag on for many months, with consistent allegations of bad-faith bargaining being levelled against the authorities, resulting in the workers going on protracted strikes, deemed illegal due to the restrictive legal requirements.

But some transport workers' unions still barred: The United Transport and Taxis Association, the Bus Driver and Motor Taxis Association and the Passengers' Transport Association, deregistered in 2003 for allegedly promoting anarchy, remained deregistered.

Casualisation of labour makes organising difficult: In recent years, there have been reports of companies increasingly employing casual labour, paying workers at probationary rates despite their having been working for a number of years. The Shoprite chain of shops has been one of the worst culprits, and a survey by the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) showed that the company is increasingly using casual workers, and that every time a permanent worker is fired, s/he is replaced by a casual worker without any benefits. After six months a worker automatically becomes permanent but employers often fire workers before the six months have been completed. Contracted workers are not entitled to any benefits. The authorities say they are revising labour laws to curb casualisation (short-term contract work).

Violations in 2006

Background: President Levy Mwanawasa, head of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) won a second and final five-year term of office in the September 2006 presidential elections. During the electoral campaign opposition candidate Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front strongly criticized Chinese-run businesses in the country, including the mining sector, accusing them of profiteering instead of investing, and of neglecting the safety of Zambian workers.

Casual workers at ZESCO's Kafue Gorge Power Plant Project jailed after going on strike: In early January, police arrested and, according to media reports, imprisoned 30 casual workers at the Kafue Gorge project of the Zambian state electricity company ZESCO who had gone on strike. Yotam Mtayachalo, General Secretary of the National Energy Sector and Alliance Workers (NESAWU) explained that they were protesting because many casual workers in ZESCO were getting low salaries that are never paid on time.

Dismissal and suspension of union leaders by ZESCO criticised: In February 2006, ZESCO fired NESAWU President Peter Chupa, along with several branch leaders, and cancelled the legitimate union responsibilities of NESAWU General Secretary Yotam Mtayachalo. ZESCO's retaliatory measures against NESAWU had intensified since the company withdrew the union's recognition agreement in April 2005. ZESCO workers in Kitwe went on strike to protest against the dismissal and suspension of their union leaders. ZESCO's Public Relations Manager Monica Chisela denounced the strike as a violation of labour laws, since essential workers had no right to protest or go on strike.

Striking Chambishi copper mine workers shot by management and police: According to Albert Mando, General Secretary of the National Union of Mining and Allied Workers (NUMAW), workers at the NFC Africa copper mine, a Chinese-owned operation in Chambishi, north-eastern Zambia, were shot and wounded by both the police and Chinese management during a strike in July. The workers had gone on strike over reports that management was going to renege on an agreement for a wage increase.

National law on unionisation of workers flouted by Trentyre Zambia: The National Union of Transport and Allied Workers (NUTAW) reported that Trentyre Zambia, a subsidiary of Tredcor Zambia Limited (owned by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company) was deliberately avoiding the law permitting the registration of unions that have more than 25 workers. According to NUTAW Deputy General Secretary Andrew Banda, 34 workers had applied for membership of the union in May 2006, but upon receipt of the letter of intent to enter into a recognition agreement, in July 2006 the company declared four workers redundant, and forced another seven workers to resign from the union, bringing the total number of workers to under twenty-five. NUTAW reported the violation to the Labour Commissioner in August 2006.

Zambia United Local Authority Workers Union complains about unfair suspension of union leaders: In December 2006 Glandson Chunga, President of the Zambia United Local Authority Workers Union (ZULAWU) reported that Ndola City Council had suspended union leaders and threatened them with dismissal for carrying out their union duties and speaking to fellow workers during a meeting.

Government interference in finance workers' union: At the end of December the Zambia Union of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers (ZUFIAW) re-elected Ms. Joyce Nonde as ZUFIAW General Secretary unopposed. However the Labour Commissioner, Mr. Noah Siasimuna, insisted that he could not declare Ms. Nonde the winner due to a pending court case. Mr. Robert Simeza, the lawyer for ZUFIAW, firmly denied that there was a court case which barred Ms. Nonde from standing for any position. The Labour Commissioner left the Congress without conducting elections for the remaining positions.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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