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Zimbabwe likely to return on ILO’s radar following ARTUZ damning report

By Staff Writer

ZIMBABWE is on the risk of returning on the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) radar following the move by the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) to file a report against the government.

The Southern Africa nation was removed from the list of ILO’s countries deserving scrutiny for labour rights violations.

However, as the 112th ILO conference beckons , there is fresh risk that the country could be subject for discussion following a damning report by the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) to the conference.

The teachers group laid bare some of the shenanigans being perpetrated by the government as it identified half a dozen ways which the government fails to comply with the international labour standards on freedom of association under ILO Conventions 87 and 98.

ILO’s Co 87 guarantees the right to organise must be understood in the context of the relevant provisions of the Preamble to the ILO Constitution and of the Declaration of Philadelphia and taking into account any subsequent practice that establishes general agreement regarding their interpretation.

Co98 requires effective measures to ensure independence of both workers’ and employers’ organizations from interference from each other.It finally requires the government, workers’ and employ- ers’ organizations to develop and utilize machinery to promote voluntary negotiations.

“The arrests and charges of union leaders and members in relation to organising or participating in protests, and the prohibition on future participation in public gatherings included in bail conditions in relation to some of the aforementioned charges, constitute violations of freedom of assembly and demonstration,” said ARTUZ in the damning report.

The teachers group said criminal charges in relation to legitimate forms of expression and the prohibitions on legitimate forms of expression included in bail conditions in relation to some of the aforementioned charges constitute violation of freedom of expression.

In 2022, the government suspended a number of striking teachers “without pay” for a period of three months after they rejected a 20% salary increment.

At the time, the government had announced a 20% salary increase, US$100 in hard currency from March, and pledged to pay tuition fees for three biological children of civil servants, among non-monetary interventions including transport provision.

In 2018, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga who was doubling up as Health and Child Care minister fired all striking nurses, and later reinstated them under new conditions restricting them from going on strike for three consecutive days.

Artuz said union leaders lived in fear of arrest on trumped up charges including break-ins by suspected State security agents at their offices and homes.

“The arrest and pre-trial detention of union leaders in cases in which charges are brought forth in retaliation for the legitimate exercise of trade union rights constitute violation of freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.Lengthy legal proceedings and repeated postponements in charges against union leaders constitute violation of due process, namely the right to a fair and speedy trial (sic).

“The Government of Zimbabwe’s failure to investigate in a timely manner the break-ins at trade union premises constitutes a failure of its (part) to protect trade union premises.Judicial harassment in retaliation for trade union activity is a violation of freedom of association and trade union rights,” the teachers group said.

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