President Edgar says delayed salaries are normal, but promises that it won’t happen again.

And President Lungu has accused the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions of playing politics by lamenting the church’s absence at the National Dialogue Forum.

President Edgar Lungu was responding to remarks by ZCTU president Chishimba Nkole during May Day celebrations.

“Fellow workers, this May Day is taking place at a very difficult time when workers are facing serious economic and social challenges. They toil during the month, not knowing whether they will recieve their salaries at the end of the month. Workers in some government funded institutions have remained unpaid, some for as many as three months. Workers at TAZARA, ZAMPOST and National Housing Authority have gone for months without salaries. Even strike action has not appealed to authorities’ conscious. How cruel can people be?” Nkole asked.

“Worse still, lending institutions have stopped giving out loans to public service workers because of repeated defaulting and in some cases failure to pay back.”

On dialogue, Nkole said the union was concerned that the church and NGOs were not participating in the NDF.

“We are saddened and concerned that the National Dialogue Forum has left out major stakeholders such as the church and NGOs. We want a national dialogue process that involves all stakeholders and can address a number of current national issues that have caused political tension and violence in this country and ultimately unite the country. We demand that government must put in place a process that will ensure that human rights will be truly respected, ensure transparency, accountability and respect for divergent views,” said Nkole.

In response, the Head of State said delayed salaries were normal, but promised that it wouldn’t happen again.

“I am equally aware of cases of delayed salaries and retirement benefits. I know, talking about delayed salaries, we had an experience where salaries in the civil service were delayed for a month and this has become a topic for all those who want to castigate government. These things do happen but I promise you they won’t happen again,” President Lungu said.

“There have also been threats of job cuts. The natural question being asked is “what is government doing about the plight of workers in our country? I empathize with our workers who are struggling to make ends meet as a result of the harsh realities of our Labour market today and I must reiterate that I truly empathize with our workers. And let me assure you that this government is determined to protest the dignity or every worker in the country. We will ensure that your jobs are protected. We will also ensure that your hard earned salaries and wages are paid in accordance with our Labour laws.”

And President Lungu charged that ZCTU was playing politics on dialogue.

“Ours is a listening government, ours is a government which trusts in dialogue. Talking about dialogue, I am also suprised that the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions president laments that they are not at the dialogue or some section of our community are not at the dialogue, even the church, I don’t know what church he is talking about. I believe that because there are politics also in the Labour movement, he was also playing politics but the truth is that the church is represented there just like the workers are represented there,” said President Lungu.