Date: Fri, 03 May 1996 09:37:48 +0800
From: Peter Limb <email@example.com>
To: "NUAFRICA: Program of African Studies Mailing List" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: May Day in Africa: news clips
Africans Observe Low-Key Workers' Day
PANA, 3 May 1996
DAKAR, Senegal (PANA) - African workers Wednesday observed low-key celebrations to mark this year's International Labour Day.
Reports from various parts of Africa monitored in Dakar indicated that workers were less enthusiastic about the day because of economic hardships caused by low wages and higher consumer prices.
The weakening of the international labour movement following the end of the cold war is also to blame for workers' disillusionment.
In Nigeria, for the second consecutive year, the day was observed without the tradional May Day rally because of a ban by the military government.
Labour leaders blamed the situation on "general disenchantment, lack of funds and the crisis in the labour movement."
The crisis in the labour movement has been on since September 1994 when the military government of Gen. Sani Abacha sacked the executives of the Nigerian Labour Congress and those of the two oil workers' unions which paralysed the country in two-month strike between July and August that year.
The government recently issued a decree on the merger and reforms within the 42 trade unions that made up the Labour Congress.
Abacha, in a message read on state radio by labour minister Uba Ahmed, urged Nigerian labour leaders to imbibe the spirit of accommodation in presenting workers' demands.
According to Corman Nnorom, chairman of the Abuja branch of the Labour Congress, Nigerian workers were pre-occupied with the "traumatic experiences" to bother about a rally.
"We are sober," he said, adding: "people are thinking of what to eat and you are talking about rally."
Meanwhile, in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, workers who showed up at the parade ground, apparently for a rally were turned back by plain-clothes security agents.
In Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Nathan Shamuyarira said government has put on hold retrenchments in the private sector.
He told thousands of workers at Rufaro Stadium in Harare that he would be informing employers soon that his ministry was no longer entertaining applications for retrenchments. "Because of the decline in the value of the [Zimbabwe] dollar, the money which the workers should get this year should be equal to or above the rate of inflation and the cost of living," said shamuyarira.
The minister noted that the average rate of wage increases in 1994 was between 12 and 13 percent and 20 percent in 1995.
"This year the increase should be above 26 percent," he said. "I will be appealing to the employers through parliament to bear this in mind."
He said increases in the public sector would depend on the job evaluation exercise which was started last year. The Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), Morgan Tsvangirai, said ways should be worked out to enable workers to acquire 30 percent shares in parastatal organisations which are being privatised.
ZCTU president, Gibson Sibanda said a total of 150,000 jobs had been lost since economic reforms came into force in 1991.
He said the removal of subsidies on essential commodities should have been accompanied by a reduction in sales tax.
In Dakar, Senegal, May Day celebrations passed without the colourful march-past by workers.
The Chairman of the National Confederation of Senegelese Workers, which is close to President Abdou Diouf's ruling Socialist Party, went to State House to read the worker's message.
In an interview with PANA later, Madia Diop, said his union's successes over the past year include the raising of family allowance from 750 F CFA to 1,000 F CFA per child per month.
He also mentioned the increase in private sector wages by five percent, and the extension of the retirement age for Senegalese workers from 55 to 60 years.
Ndeye Madjiguene Diop, a member of the labour federation, deplored the fact that women were poorly paid although "they work as hard as men in their companies while taking care of household chores".
In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Secertary General of the Tanzania Federation of Trade Unions (TFTU), Bruno Mpangala, told President Benjamin Mkapa that ongoing economic reforms had weakened and impoverished the majority workers.
"The attendant decline in real wages, retrenchment and inflation undermined workers' development in the country," he said, adding that the standard of living for the majority of Tanzanians was below the poverty line.
Mpangala complained that workers were the only income earners paying statutory tax while many businessmen evaded taxation.
"The workers have a right to demand a minimum wage of 145,000 Tanzania shillings (about 245 USD) in 1996. Our economy is able to meet such salaries provided we plan well," Mpangala said.
The President had said the government would need a total of 601 billion Shillings pay workers each month if the minimum wage is raised to 145,000 shillings per month.
"This would mean bringing everything to a stand still as the government's revenue would not be enough to finance other sectors," Mkapa added. -0- PANA PBM/FON 2May96