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At least 32 people were killed in work-related accidents in the first quarter of the year, while 1 447 others were injured at workplaces, figures released ahead of Workers Day celebrations that were poorly attended countrywide yesterday showed.

Workers largely ignored the celebrations at various venues as both the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions drew less than 200 participants, especially outside Harare.

The poor attendance was mainly attributed to the embarrassing politicisation of the labour unions, while many former workers are now employing themselves in the informal sector after industries were decimated by over a decade of illegal Western sanctions.

In a statement to mark Workers Day, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche said Government was concerned with the death of so many workers within a short period.

“Government has zero tolerance to injuries and loss of life at the workplace and will continue to employ strategies to make workplaces safe and accident-free,” he said.

“As we celebrate Workers Day, let us remember those workers who lost their lives due to occupational hazards, diseases and injuries whilst at work.”

Figures for the 2014 first quarter reflected an increase for injuries recorded compared to the same period last year, while fatalities rose marginally.

Over the same period last year, the country had registered 33 workplace deaths and 1 446 serious work-related injuries. The International Labour Organisation estimates that 2,34 million people die each year from work-related accidents and diseases.

In a speech read on his behalf by a director in the ministry, Mr Francis Mafuratidze, at the ZCTU Workers Day celebrations at Gwanzura Stadium in Harare, Minister Goche said Government was proud to be associated with the day.

He said Government adopted Zim-Asset aimed at addressing the socio-economic challenges the country was facing.

“As we celebrate Workers’ Day, I call upon all workers to perform their various jobs diligently to make the envisaged turnaround a reality.”

Also in Harare, police barred a faction of the ZCTU led Mr Lovemore Matombo from celebrating the day at the Harare Gardens and ordered those who turned up to move out because of the ongoing Harare International Festival of the Arts taking place at the same venue.

Officer commanding Harare Central District Chief Superintendent Norbert Saunyama had informed the faction’s official Mr Raymond Majongwe that the venue was already occupied.

In Masvingo, less than 100 people turned up for the ZCTU’s main celebrations at Mucheke Stadium.

The situation was also the same at other venues throughout the province.

ZCTU southern region manager Mr Manasseh Vunganai attributed the low turnout to “economic hardships afflicting the country”.

But at Chishamiso Stadium in Chiredzi, there was a slightly bigger turnout of about 600 people at celebrations organised by the ZFTU-affiliated Zimbabwe Sugar Milling Industry Workers Union.

The crowd was also small at Sakubva Stadium in Mutare where less than 100 people turned up.

ZCTU Manicaland chairperson, Mrs Francisca Gurure read a speech on behalf of the union’s president Mr George Nkiwane.

The ZCTU faction led by Mr Matombo held its commemorations at Mutare Museum, while the ZFTU held their celebrations at Bazel Bridge in Mutare West.

Both events were poorly attended.

In Beitbridge, people numbering nearly 50 and mainly MDC-T supporters turned up at Dulibadzimu Stadium to commemorate the day and the celebrations ended prematurely because of the low turnout.

Zimbabwe Railway Amalgamated Workers Union’s Mr Kenneth Nemachena led the proceedings.

In Bindura, workers boycotted celebrations held by the ZFTU at Chipadze Stadium, while ZCTU did not have any celebrations in the province.

ZFTU vice president Mr Batsirai Musona attributed the boycott to “workers’ disgruntlement”.

In Mashonaland West province, there were few who bothered to turn up at various venues.

At Chinhoyi Stadium the ZCTU faction led by Mr Nkiwane expressed reservations with proposed amendments to the Labour Act.

The faction’s representative Mr Farai Chimatira said current labour laws gave sufficient protection to workers.

“As workers we are worried by proposed amendments to the law as we feel it gives employers the power to unilaterally hire and fire without giving recourse to the workers,” he said.

The Matombo-led ZCTU faction and its affiliates held their commemorations at Cooksey Hall where only affiliate members were present.

In Kariba where national commemorations of the ZFTU were being held, secretary general Mr Kenias Shamuyarira said unions were worried about late or non-payment of salaries.

In Bulawayo, ZCTU vowed to defy labour reforms that were recently approved by Government, saying they exposed workers to exploitation.

Reason Ngwenya, the union’s chairperson for the western region, said in an interview that the reforms were unacceptable.

In the Midlands, the main Workers’ Day commemorations were at Mkoba Stadium in Gweru.

There were no commemorations in Mashonaland East, Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North.

Source : The Herald