The sight of Grain Marketing Board (GMB) workers camping outside the premises of the company in Harare indeed confirms the death of the labour movement in the country.
Collective bargaining which is defined as the ‘negotiation of wages and other conditions of employment by an organized body of employees’ no longer exists in this country. Workers have lost their bargaining power because they are fragmented and scattered.
With 90% of the population said to be unemployed and many people involved in the informal sector workers in formal employment have lost bargaining power and are increasingly becoming powerless and vulnerable.
The GMB matter which is receiving positive coverage in the state media is not an isolated event in the last five years or so. It has become a regular occurrence that workers are either discarded or ill treated with impunity by government and owners of capital.
First it was the NRZ workers who went for years without being paid and many of them found themselves homeless after being thrown out of company accommodation. More than 500 workers were fired by the parastatal in 2015 as the company took advantage of the July Supreme court ruling that allowed companies to dismiss workers.
But the willy-nilly firing of workers had already started as diamond company ,Anjin dismissed 1500 workers during the GNU era. This was swept under the carpet and even the pro-labour MDC that was in the government did very little to save the jobs of these mine workers.
Many of us wake up and go to work daily and see these GMB workers daily and never think that it could be any of us in that plight.
What has befallen GMB,NRZ or Anjin workers can easily befall any other worker in any other company hence the need for labour to be organised and react to threats as a unit.
The decreasing influence of the ZCTU and its affiliate labour organisations represent the waning power of workers to stand against government and employer excesses.
Over the years workers have become individualistic and less organised. Through its actions and some of its policies, the Zimbabwean government has successfully preoccupied workers with matters of survival making have very little or no regard at all for their peer workers.
Empathy amongst workers has disappeared as everyone goes about their own survival business. In the yesteryears ,injuring one worker would be regarded as injuring all and worker injustices would provoke a united response.
Zimbabweans must come to a realisation that they are all GMB or NRZ workers in a way. The fate of every worker will be the same if the economy continues to shed jobs as companies close or fail to perform. It all starts with not being paid your salary until you are eventually laid off empty handed.
The plight of GMB workers need a robust response to the injustices being perpetrated by employers and the government. The aloofness of workers has now dis-empowered them . It is time to mobilise again .