Govt must improve worker rights during COVID-19 lockdowns-NANGO

By Nhau Mangirazi

National Association of Non-Government Organisations (NANGO) has challenged Government to improve the welfare of workers through putting together measures that address deprivations dogging the labour sector.

In a statement to mark International Workers day, NANGO said the Government must strive to safeguard employment by putting together a rescue package that will protect and promote growth of the labour sector and be delivered than being ‘a paper tiger’

‘We call upon the government to ensure that more measures are implemented to urgently respond to COVID-19 as well as protecting all workers in particular frontline responders to the pandemic and other essential service sectors in view of saving lives,’

The statement further called on the state to upgrade and render full support to public office bearers who in dire economic conditions have remained resolute to the call of national development and service delivery.

‘As we celebrate workers day, we call on the Government to promote good governance, transparency and social accountability as we rally to see an end to corruption, maltreatment of public service personnel and temporal solutions to their needs and aspirations,’

In a statement titled Uncertainty, anxiety and infringement of workers’ rights, the umbrella body said this year commemorations were held at a time when majority of workers across the globe are not physically at their workstations and this has put them in a compromising position where most are now uncertain, anxious and vulnerable.

‘‘Ordinarily, this day is dedicated to saluting the great contribution that workers offer towards sustainable development across varying sectors. Workers are the vehicles through which the world moves from one level of development to another. As such, we need to spare some time to celebrate the role of workers. In the midst of this current global turmoil we salute workers who have played a pivotal role in ensuring that the world is a better place, through their toil and human capital,’

Workers have continued to dedicate themselves despite low recognition by those with authority and responsibility to ensure that workers are well catered for.

The statement added, ‘Thus, the sacrifice and commitment of workers should forever cherished. Currently workers lament challenges to do with meagre income and food insecurity, threats of job cuts and possible underemployment among others. The impact of COVID-19 response has also adversely impacted the workers today and the effects may continue into the unforeseeable future. Today workers are in a huge dilemma. They find themselves conflicted between celebrating how far the sector has come and bemoaning the poor state of things. The labour sector has borne the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis that emerged as a health, humanitarian, economic, social, political and labour crisis,’

It called on government intervention required to cushion those affected by shocks of this nature.

‘Workers need relief from government, they also need to rekindle hope, ease anxiety and promote realization of their rights. This can be achieved by supporting the productive sector in a bid to safeguard formal employment while improving and supporting the operating environment of the informal sector,’ added the statement.

It also challenged the private sector, civil society organisations and churches to strike a balance between viability and the welfare of the workers. ‘We call upon these to respect and protect the rights of workers by dissuading a culture of racism, sexism, ageism, tribalism, extortion, sexual and gender based violence in the workplace’

There has been calls for employees to ensure engagement of employers in a progressive way to foster good working relations in coming up with sustainable solutions to mitigate against current challenges being faced in the operational environment.

‘Let workers utilize non-violent strategies of engaging their employers during these difficult times,’ added the statement.