Zambia’s Labour Commissioner breaks crucial ILO Convention

By Staff Reporter

Zambia has abrogated the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 087 after the Ministry of Labour and Social Security terminated the recognition agreement between the quasi-government Road Transport and Safety Agency and the National Road Sector Agencies and Allied Workers Union following a unionised workers’ strike in 2017.

In a memorandum dated May 18, 2018 authored by the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) head – human resources and administration, Kamang’ula Wa’chata, addressed to all members of staff at the Agency, all stakeholders were notified that the Ministry of Labour and Social Security through the Labour Commissioner had terminated the said recognition agreement on May 8 this year.

Wa’chata stated that the Labour Commissioner’s action was pursuant to section 65A(3) of the Industrial and Labour Relations Amendment Act, which proscribes for any abrogation of provisions of part IX of the Industrial and Labour Relations Act as well as the provisions in the Recognition Agreement.

“On 8th May 2018, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security through the office of the Labour Commissioner, terminated the Recognition Agreement between the Road Transport and Safety Agency on one hand and the National Road Sector Agencies and Allied Workers Union of Zambia on the other hand,” the letter reads. “This implies that all RTSA unionised members of staff ceased to be members of the said union effective 8th May 2018 and there will be no union until further notice. However, all RTSA employee [sic] wishing [to] belong to a trade union still have the right to be a member of a trade union of their choice.”

Wa’chata said in view of this memorandum, RSTA’s Finance Department had been instructed to stop deducting from the Agency employees and remitting the monthly union membership contribution to the said union with immediate effect.

“Management wishes to advise all members of staff that upholding high levels of self-discipline and integrity is a key contributor to the success of the RTSA as the Agency’s core mandate is based on implementing government policy on road transport, road safety and traffic management,” the memorandum read further.

However, a look at media reports carried out by the privately-owned Muvi Television over the past few months, show that RTSA unionised employees staged a labour-related protest around lunch hour on December 13 last year.

It was on that basis that RTSA management suspended several workers and union leaders accusing them of having participated in an illegal strike among other offences. The workers took the matter to the Industrial Relations Court but despite the court matter still pending, the Labour Commissioner has left all RTSA employees without union representation following the termination of the recognition agreement with the workers’ union.

ILO Convention 087 discourages any interference in the manner in which workers exercise their freedom of association and expression when organising themselves through trade unions of their own choice in the workplace.

Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) has since reported that country’s government to the International Labour Organisation for engaging in similar activities, which run contrary to the provisions of ILO Convention 087, and the matter will be heard during the forthcoming International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.