RWG-Z STATEMENT ON THE 6 MARCH 2017 CIVIL SERVANTS STRIKE
NO RETURNING TO WORK UNTIL BONUSES ARE PAID!
GOVERNMENT HANDS OFF UNIONS AND WORKERS!
FIGHT FOR A LIVING WAGE!
FIGHT FOR BETTER WORKING CONDITIONS!
FORM WORKPLACE BASED AND NATIONAL STRIKE COMMITEES!
BUILD WORKERS DEFENSE GUARDS!
PREPARE FOR AN ALL OUT STRIKE!
FOR A NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF WORKERS IN STRUGGLE!
The Apex council, representing all civil servants, issued a statement declaring that if government fails to pay their bonuses on time and in cash all workers will go on strike starting Monday the 6th of March 2017.The workers are also demanding that government stops meddling in workers affairs and also respect the joint negotiating forum between workers and the government. This comes as junior doctors are in the third week of their strike over bonuses, a decent wage and better working conditions with the nurses and senior doctors also threatening to go on strike over the same issues. Recent talks with government representatives yielded nothing as government was only trying to buy time whilst doing all it can to divide workers and weaken the unions ahead of a showdown over a living wage and better working conditions. The government through the minister of labour is busy trying to divide the public sector workers by conducting a nefarious “consultation” with the workers behind the backs of the unions. This is unacceptable and an affront to the workers struggle and interests.
As the Revolutionary Workers Group of Zimbabwe (RWG-Z) we fully support the call by the civil service workers unions to go on strike. This was long overdue. Nothing can be won by talking to an authoritarian and anti-workers government that serves imperialism, local capitalists and bosses in the party. This can only be the beginning of a protracted and robust mass action that will win workers their bonuses, a living wage and better working conditions. But for this to happen workers need to be organised and clear in their demands. The battle cannot be left to the trade union leadership alone. Workers on the ground must come up with workplace based strike committees which coordinate with other workplaces and the unions in order to be able to turn this strike into an all-out general strike capable of conquering the demands of the workers and manned by accountable and recallable representatives. Workers must be prepared against the inevitable treachery of the labour bureaucracy which is prone to betrayals and cowardice.
Zimbabwe has been experiencing an economic downturn ever since the dawn of the new millennium. This was made worse by the 2008 great recession which made a bad situation worse. After an initial stabilisation following the Government of National Unity (GNU) of 2009 the situation got worse after the 2013 general elections won by the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe. Industries have closed en masse resulting in massive unemployment and growth of the informal sector. This has led to fissures within the ruling party on how best to resolve the crisis of capitalism and a backward semi colonial state, being seen also in the opposition parties and civil society. One faction in ZANU-PF is advocating for rapprochement with western imperialism, opening up the business space and introducing a raft of democratic rights as a solution to the crisis with another advocating the deepening of relations with Chinese imperialism, instituting protectionist measures and tightening the ruling party’s grip on dissent.
The great recession of 2008 caused by a crisis of profitability resulted in an acute crisis of global capitalism with the major imperialist economies forced to bail out banks and firms. The cost of the bailout has been forced on the shoulders of the working and oppressed masses through vicious austerity measures. This attempt has however failed to resolve the crisis. Even the so called emerging economies like Brazil and India have also been hit hard. The situation in semi colonial countries like Zimbabwe is worse as they face the double burden of imperialist domination and capitalist recession resulting in a vicious spiral of economic downturn. As a reaction to the failure of the austerity measures a section of bourgeoisie politicians and strategists is now proposing and implementing protectionist and neo Keynesian measures to try and ease the effects of the crisis. This, however, is bound to fail as well because the fundamental dynamic of a historic fall in profitability cannot be addressed by these superficial measures.
As in other countries, the bosses and elites in Zimbabwe have been forced to force the burden of paying for the crisis on the shoulders of the poor and workers. The working class has essentially saved the economy from imploding through slave wages and a massive attack on their working conditions. The destruction of social services initiated in the early 1990s has been intensified despite occasional election time and populist pro poor rhetoric by the anti-workers regime which is supported in essence by the whole spectrum of mainstream opposition parties and groups. The unemployment rate of above 90% has created a pressure point for forcing those still in work to accept slave wages and going for months without pay despite bosses and senior managers awarding themselves obscene pay rises on a regular basis. In the public service sector the workers have been attacked and victimised left, right and centre with the latest being the non-payment of the 2016 bonuses by now.
Clearly, the balance of force in class terms is in favour of the bosses and imperialism against workers and the poor masses. The 2015 Supreme Court ruling on the dismissal of workers on three moths notice dealt a big blow to the workers with over 3000 losing their jobs and many living in perpetual fear and confusion. This is on the back of the decimation of the labour movement through its co-option by the major MDC-T party and the general deceptive nature of labour leaders especially in times of crisis. The splits in the union federations along partisan and opportunistic lines has made a bad situation worse. The umbrella body that represents the civil servants, the Apex council, is no exception to the opportunistic bickering and side shows at the grim expense of workers. Government has taken advantage of the situation by going directly to workers in an attempt to divide the unionised against non-unionised workers as well as set up workers against their unions. The blame has to be put squarely on the labour bureaucracy which is prostrating itself to the government and bosses for selfish reasons.
The strike action forced on the leadership by events and workers is a welcome move that has the potential to shift the balance of forces decisively. What is needed is not a symbolic one off action but a protracted strike that forces the government to pay bonuses, improve working conditions and improve salaries. The momentum created by the on-going junior doctors’ strike and threats by the nurses and senior doctors is an advantage to the civil servants. Only militant and solid action can win results. The examples of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) workers of steadfast industrial action should guide the government workers. It is also important that other unions and bodies of the poor masses offer solidarity to the workers as they embark on a historic job action reminiscent of the late 90s.
For this to be successful workers should move to build workplace strike committees, with elected leaders who can be recalled immediately, that are coordinated at the national level to safeguard against betrayals and also able to coordinate and mobilise the strike. Relying on the union leadership is dangerous and can only lead to bitter defeats and frustration. The strike committees would also safeguard the workers against the manipulations and threats likely to come from the union leaders. It is likely that the government, faced with a life and death situation, will unleash the forces of violence on the workers. This must be defeated by building defence guards to protect striking workers against hired agents of the labour bureaucracy and the state machinery. Public sector workers should call for a national conference of all workers in struggle in order to build solidarity between public sector workers and other unions as well as other organisations of the oppressed. We urge all workers to come out in full force on Monday the 6th of March 2017 and be part of the great awakening of the working class against imperialist exploitation, capitalism and dictatorship.
- We demand a sliding scale of wages and prices and employment for all who can work; working conditions should improve for all workers!
- We demand the introduction of state projects to employ all the unemployed; the government must stop the attack on the vendors!
- Land must be distributed to all poor peasants together with a state bank to provide inputs to all small farmers!
- Build councils of unemployed workers to fight for the unemployed and all workers!
- To provide jobs for all big and imperialist assets must be nationalised and put under workers control and self-management!
- Workers form strike committees to lead the resistance to the growing attacks on the wages and working conditions of the poor and the livelihood of the majority poor!
- We call for free and quality health care, Housing and Education for all!
- Workers form workers defence guards for defence against state violence!
- For a workers state that defends workers, peasants and the poor masses against the local and foreign capitalists!
- No to dictatorship and state persecution of activists!
- For a workers and peasants’ government on the basis of the armed people to implement decisions that benefit the workers and the poor as part of a Socialist federation of Southern Africa!
- For a new WORLD PARTY of socialist revolution based on the TRANSITIONAL PROGRAM of 1938 to lead the revolution to end capitalism and open the road to socialism!
Revolutionary Workers Group of Zimbabwe (RWG-Z)
5 March 2017 Harare, Zimbabwe