Governance activist Brebner Changala has asked management at the Kabwe Municipal Council to withdraw the dismissal of its 13 workers who participated in a nationwide protest by local government workers against their six months’ salary arrears in April.

And Changala has blamed the workers’ unions for failure to intervene in the dismissal of the 13 Council workers, charging that instead of acting as a bridge between employers and workers, trade unions in Zambia have been cannibalised, compromised and completely destroyed.

Speaking to News Diggers! Changala argued that there was nothing illegal about protesting against unpaid salaries.

“We are living in a very hostile environment when it comes to governance in this country. There was no need to fire those 13 council workers who protested against salary arrears if we are in a stable and credible system of governance where all people’s rights and personal liberties are held in high esteem. You cannot employ a worker for six months or even two without a salary or indeed a wage because that is tantamount to slavery. Slavery is where people work for nothing and when people show desire or demand that the obligations of an employer must be met, you do not resort to such barbaric ways of resolving issues. But then I must take this step by step; if we had effective trade unions which have been cannibalised, compromised and destroyed in the country, they would have intervened. The trade union is a bridge between an employee and an employer. The trade unions should have fought those battles on behalf of the employers. But the trade union is gone,” Changala lamented.

“That aside, the worker who rendered a service to Kabwe Municiple Council should have been paid a salary or indeed a wage. What they are doing is draconian. Secondly, even the government, the Ministry of Local Government which superintends the city councils should reverse the decision of the local government because those people worked. They rendered a service; they were demanding what is due to them. Firing them is not a solution but paying them and giving them good working conditions is the solution. So my take on this is that we are living in a society where hell has broken loose and those are now but victims of bad governance. By firing them, they are even making the situation worse.”

Changla also wondered if they dismissed Kabwe Council workers were being sent home after getting the salary arrears they had been demanding.

“I must get clarity as well, have they fired them after paying them what they worked for or they have fired them with nothing? They must meet those people’s demands halfway. Either you get rid of them with all what belongs to them, give them a check. Do not abuse people. The economy of this country is on its knees; do not stress people in this manner. We must have a government or indeed we must have an employer that is listening to people’s demands. Six months without wage, what have those workers been surviving on? How have they been paying school fees and taking their children to hospitals? And someone, sane enough goes to write dismissal letters, that is unacceptable and it must be rescinded and people must be paid because there is no dispute that they worked,” said Changala.