The Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has projected a difficult year for workers in the country following the rise in inequality and the reduced workers’ bargaining power this year.

And ZCTU says President Edgar Lungu’s directive to cut his and other senior civil servants’ salaries by an average 15 per cent is illegal and will not remedy people’s suffering.

Speaking during the end of year press briefing in Kitwe, Tuesday, ZCTU president Chishimba Nkole urged workers to enter the New Year with the same amount of vigilance they had last year to effectively drive the agenda of decent jobs in the country.

“As we cross into another tough year, the stakes have never been higher for workers, unions, and people who believe in a just economy and a decent country. The employer of today has relentlessly undercut workers’ bargaining power, triggering an explosive rise in inequality, poverty and deprivation. The environment surrounding workers will even be more difficult in 2020 and I want to urge workers to be more militant and more united than ever before. We would like to urge all our members to enter 2020 with the same amount of vigilance in order to effectively drive the agenda of decent jobs. Workers will not accept conditions from employers, which will worsen their suffering. Workers have sacrificed enough for this country and they cannot continue sacrificing, while the benefits are being enjoyed by only a few minority in society. The ZCTU will continue to promote productivity among workers so that the development agenda is kept on course as well as ensure that there is harmony on the industrial relations stage,” Nkole said.

And Nkole insisted that President Lungu’s directive to cut salaries was illegal.

“We do not agree with the directive by President Edgar Lungu to slash salaries of senior government officers and heads of parastatal organisations because this will not provide a solution to the many economic difficulties that are being faced by the majority. Apart from being an illegal move, because the Head of State cannot unilaterally cut salaries of individual, this will not address the suffering of the people. Will the cutting of salaries for targeted individuals reduce the increased price of fuel, address the high taxes, lower the price of mealie-meal, stop the looming electricity tariff hike and provide a solution to the country’s high indebtedness? The answer is a big no!” he added.

He also warned that if Zambia’s economy was not well handled, it may deteriorate further.

“We wish to take this opportunity to condemn the increased fuel prices effected by government a few days ago. It is ridiculous for ERB (Energy Regulation Board) and government to increase fuel prices at this time of the year when everyone is complaining about the high cost of living! We know the spiral effect fuel increases can have on the cost of other basic needs. This government should not push people against the wall. The patience of the people should not be taken for granted. How will people survive? To add salt to injury, there is a looming electricity tariff increase scheduled for January 1. This is unbelievable! Where are we going as a country? If the economy is not well handled, Zambia may end up in a more terrible mess than some of the African countries we know. Let us be cautious with the way the economy and people’s emotions are being handled,” cautioned Nkole.

He further urged government not to use the arrogance of numbers in Parliament to pass unpopular Bills, such as Bill 10, which had been rejected by stakeholders.