Reports that the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) has received from its affiliates in Zimbabwe , highlight how the difficult economic situation is affecting workers. "When all the goods are delivered in the shops, workers are at work. Black market traders buy every thing from the shops while workers are working," says Stephen Nhlapo, the IMF's South African representative.
"When workers knock off, they find empty shelves and they are forced to go and buy in the black market where prices are sometimes 10 times higher than in the shops. Many workers are starving with their money in their pockets because they can not buy anything with their money." For Mugabe and his ministers, the solution is easy, visit another country and stock up.
For Zimbabwe workers who go to another country it is not so easy. "At our last workshop outside Zimbabwe ," says Nhlapo, "one of the Zimbabwe participants was forced to leave some of his clothes with us so that he could carry a bag of maize mill, cooking oil and a packet of rice home!" The shortage of fuel has led to workers choosing to walk 15 kms to work instead of taking taxis because taxis are charging 5 times the normal price.
Many workers have been forced to sleep in factories or to move closer to work. And inside the factory it is no better. "We have received reports that workers are being dismissed from companies just because they are members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)," says Nhlapo.
"The government accuses ZCTU of supporting the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). In most parastatals, government supporters have forced workers to resign from the unions affiliated to ZCTU to join the newly formed unions which support the ruling party.
"In one government owned company Zisco steel in which the IMF affiliate was a majority union and the sole bargaining agent, the management and the new unions colluded and introduced the new union on the basis that all workers who join the new union will receive a 20% increase," says Nhlapo. But job security is also threatened by the lack of foreign currency.
This prevents the company from buying the material that it needs to produce. As a result many companies have laid off workers.