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A UNIQUE LABOUR DAY

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THIS year’s Labour Day has presented a unique opportunity for the labour movement to reflect deeply and focus on crafting solutions for sustenance in the post Covid-19 era.
In the past, workers would march in elegant attire, listen to speeches, enjoy refreshments and disperse.
This happened year-in year-out, a routine with very little impact nor tangible results.
A horde of workers would simply demand the best attire for them to look outstanding without truly reflecting on the very essence of the Workers Day; it became routine, a joy ride.
Many of them will only look at the attire as the benefit while others will just enjoy the spectacle of marching and strutting along with the music reverberating from the military brass band.
Perhaps, the time of speeches for some workers in the audience is the anti-climax.
Therefore, this year offers an opportunity for workers to curve a turning-point, to focus more on the true meaning of the occasion and celebrate it for what it is; not for new suits nor spectacular display.
Labour Day must be understood in the correct context and commemorated for the right reasons.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) recognises the International Labour Day as an official holiday all over the world to celebrate the accomplishments of workers and to promote workers’ rights.
Labour Day has its origins in the United States in the late 1800s when at the height of the industrial revolution an average American operated for 12 hours from Monday to Friday and seven hours during weekends.
Workers were subjected to long hours and poor working conditions, sparking protests, epitomised by riots in which many lives were lost.
In New York, employees requested for unpaid time off and held the first Labour Day parade. This important occasion has evolved for many years in many countries and has now become a global phenomenon – International Labour Day.
In Zambia, a lot has happened including labour law reforms to try and strike a balance between a sustainably growing industry and a motivated labour movement.
This is a pendulum which has been difficult to balance for some years due to a number of factors.
Currently, the topical issue relates to the Employment Code Act number 3 of 2019 which aims to regulate the employment of persons, prohibit discrimination at an undertaking and provide for the protection of wages, entitlements and other benefits.
It is also aims at achieving many other things for both the employer and employee.
Although Government is also an employer, it is there to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and remunerate employees appropriately.
However, financial turbulence may arise and choke this equation.
Labour Day, therefore, offers an opportunity for both the employer and the employee to reflect on the matters affecting operations, whether positive or negative.
It is a day when workers’ achievements must be recognised and appreciated, a day when workers’ rights must be discussed and appreciated.
This year, the trade unions, workers, employers, Government and cooperating partners have not converged, but this does not take away the spirit to recognise the importance of the worker in industrial and national development.
It is a unique Labour Day presented in 2020, which will go in the annals of history.
Most importantly, workers and employers must examine issues in the correct perspective and plan for the post Covid-19 period; how will the state of the economy be?
How will it affect both the employer and employee?