Patriotic Front (PF) Secretary General Davies Mwila has defended government’s upward revision of the minimum wage for domestic, shop and general workers, saying the increment is in line with the party’s 2016-2021 manifesto.

And Mwila has vowed that President Edgar Lungu, as the ‘union leader’ for maids and other domestic workers, will continue fighting for better conditions for them.

On Wednesday, CSPR observed that the recent adjustment to the minimum wage for domestic workers was too high, warning that it could lead to job losses.

But reacting to CSPR’s concerns in an interview, Thursday, Mwila said maids were not slaves and they were enough people in the country who could afford to pay them well.

“We have heard people saying ‘no we are going to get our relatives from the village’, that is against the Biblical teachings. You can’t get your relative from the village to come and become your slave so that you start telling them to clean your house, washing your clothes, and taking care of your children and then you don’t even pay them and you say ‘this is my relative so I will just give them nssima. I think that is unZambian, that is unbiblical and we must desist from this mentality of viewing maids as slaves whom we we can just treat in which ever way that we want. These maids have got families, they have got children and aspirations which they want to achieve and us as PF will continue protecting them. And there will be no shocks in the economy because we have enough people in this economy who can hire maids and pay them well,” Mwila said.

“We commend the government for revising the minimum wage upwards for our domestic workers, the shop workers and other categories of protected workers. Because this is in line with the Patriotic Front manifesto for 2016 to 2021. The Patriotic Front was formed as a mass movement for the poor and weak in society, the PF is a pro poor political party that strives to protect, defend and promote the interests of the poor and weak in society. Domestic workers, shop workers and protected workers fall under this category of workers that need protection, promotion and workers that need to be defended by the party. Since the revision of the minimum wage is in line with the party manifesto, it calls for us to ensure that we also uplift the lives of ordinary workers who are also facing challenges in taking care of their families.”

He said government had considered a lot of factors before increasing the minimum wage.

“I want to put it very categorical that government considers a lot of factors before any policy is implemented and that proper situation analysis is done before any policy announcement is made. Therefore, to claim that government did not take into consideration the entire spectrum of economic fundamentals is not correct, as being claimed by the CSPR. The Patriotic Front as a ruling party which is formulating the policies which government is implementing, has a very robust team of researchers and technocrats who are very competent think tanks. As a party which is making policies which government is implementing, we do thorough research and survey before we can recommend any policy to the government. Mind you, the government policy is the Patriotic Front policy because we are the party in government, we are the ones that have been given the mandate by the people of Zambia to rule, we are the ones that are the ruling party and government is there to implement our policies. So these are policies that are properly enshrined in our constitution,” Mwila said.

“We shall not allow a situation where our people are subjected to slave wages and conditions. What CSPR must ask itself is, can the Director for CSPR survive on a K522 [salary]? Can he pay rent, take to children to school, find transport and buy clothes and groceries in K522? The answer is that no one can survive to everything in K522, therefore, we as the political party in power recommended in line with our manifesto that the minimum wage should be revised. It must be very clear that maids were not meant for a particular class, maids are meant for people who have to pay them because they are not slaves. The Bible is very clear that you cannot keep people as slaves by giving them wages that are below the threshold that can sustain their lives. We must protect the people and we as PF will make sure that we will continue to look at the welfare of the peasant and the domestic workers.”

He vowed at his party and President Lungu would continue fighting for better conditions for maids and other domestic workers.

“In terms of civil servants for instance, government has been giving increments to civil servants over the years and it’s also important to note that civil servants have got a very robust representation through which they air out their grievances, they have a system through which they communicate when negotiating increments for there salaries. They have got unions, but the maids don’t have unions. The only representation that ordinary workers have is us the people whom they have given the mandate to preside over the affairs of the state. President Edgar Lungu is the number one union leader for the maids, he’s the number one union leader for the domestic workers and those who are working in the shops. So it is incumbent upon President Edgar Lungu and those who are working in the shops to stand up and fight for the maids because they have no unions. And there will not be any job loses because the revisions that have been done are in line with the income hours of those that employ maids,” said Mwila.