Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) President Nkole Chishimba says workers in the country should brace themselves for harsher times induced by the swelling national debt which is quickly turning into a national crisis.

And Chishimba says he is worried about the continued failure by political stakeholders to dialogue and end the prevailing political hostilities that have engulfed the country.

Speaking at Gonde Lodge in Kabwe where he opened a three-day Communication Strategy for Trade Union leaders, Chishimba said dismantling the huge national debt was a mammoth task that called for huge sacrifices from citizens.

He said what was even more alarming was that workers in the public sector were likely to suffer another wage freeze.

“As the debt crisis deepens and austerity measures begin to take root, it will be practically impossible for government to offer any salary increment to its workers. Our understanding is that government has resorted to the introduction of austerity measures because it has failed to come up with logical alternatives to dismantling both the local and external debt stocks,” Chishimba said.

Chishimba said the introduction of 30 ngwee tax for all internet calls was yet another desperate attempt by government to raise revenue to repay the huge debt.

“We have every reason to believe that this is a tax that was not well thought out. We do not think that there were internal consultations before rushing to announce this measure. These are issues trade unions should question because the performance of the country has been negatively affected by over borrowing and lavish expenditure. Both public and private sectors are in serious trouble,” he said.

The ZCTU President said introducing taxes to offset national debt was a wrong way of avoiding a national crisis.

“It is surprising that government is introducing new taxes everyday as a way of raising money to repay debts. This is a wrong way of handling this matter because you are over-burdening workers with taxes when there is no corresponding increase in their income. The patience of workers should not be taken for granted,” said Chishimba.

And Chishimba expressed worry at the constant failure to hold political dialogue meant to end political hostilities that have engulfed the country.

“Let us not pretend. The political tension is real and the more political parties delay in holding roundtable discussions, the situation is bound to get worse. Productivity is likely to suffer because some workers will be working in fear,” Chishimba said.

Chishimba said some workers had suffered victimisation on political grounds.

“We have seen in some instances workers being retired in national interest because of their political affiliation. In a democracy, we do not expect workers to be victimised on political grounds. I know that things are tough but we must also act tough if we are to meet the challenges ahead” said Chishimba.