THE signal is clear that this government has neglected us but they should know that Copperbelt mulilo, says Zambia United Local Authorities Workers Union Copperbelt chairperson Andrew Nyirenda.
Nyirenda warned of council workers going on a countrywide work stoppage.
He was addressing the media under the theme: “creating an effective local government system for quality service provision through the establishment of a centralized payroll system for local authorities to overcome the late payment of salaries”.
“The Copperbelt is on mulilo (fire)! Play with us and you will see what will happen. We need our salaries,” Nyirenda said.
ZULAWU general secretary Emmanuel Mwinsa said President Edgar Lungu should motivate council workers because they are part of his government.
“This theme needs to reach the ears of the government. We need a proper system in the local government. To achieve this, we need a motivated worker. The only problem and demotivating factor we have is the late payment of council workers,” he said. “This has affected the implementation of the decentralisation process. How can the carriers of the function work when they are demotivated? Our appeal or calling is to separate resources for service provision and personal emoluments. The council should manage the resources of service provision. We wonder why it is a challenge for government to pay salaries.”
Mwinsa said it was an embarrassment for a government worker to be evicted for failure to pay rentals.
“Even people that borrow money are refusing to give a debt to a council worker. Today, the most vulnerable employee is a council worker. While, we suffer, these managers in councils are busy abusing these funds,” he said.
Mwinsa said the Union would now follow the managers in councils.
“Once we finish with the push for [Local Government] Equalisation Fund, next it’s the mangers in councils that we will follow on. We need to reaffirm our position that our members have threatened and informed us to go on a countrywide work stoppage,” said Mwinsa. “In the interest of harmony, let these issues be resolved on time. We appeal to President Edgar Lungu to treat each citizen equal. We are not second class workers. In fact we are part of this same government which is treating us like this. And when workers are suffering like this, we need leaders that can listen to the workers. It’s an appeal, and certain people in government are making this government very unpopular and it is unpopular now.”
ZULAWU vice-president Margaret Jere said workers in local authorities have been neglected.
“We, in the council, have been neglected. Look at the heath sector, Dr [Chitalu] Chilufya, the minister is busy in clinics. But us it’s on remote control. This is not the way the councils should be looked at. When they go to Parliament they’re busy saying councils have failed but do they even know how we are suffering?” she wondered. “These same decision makers are the ones who are oppressing us. Remember what the late [Michael] Sata used to work as local government minister, he used to visit us. Please through you the press, I want to ask President Lungu to name me the Minister of Local Government so that we can run the councils, not on remote control while sitting in office.”
Jere said it was painful that while other ministers were working, others were busy in their offices without work.
“We want to challenge this government to pay the workers on time. The holding onto to markets and stations by the named cadres has paralysised the councils. Councils today have nothing to collect. We are suffering here yet there are a lot of resources which the council can use to sustain itself but the government is holding on to these funds through the cadres in the markets,” said Jere. “Councils should be financially independent from political interference.”
Another ZULAWU member charged that: “There will be cholera from all towns on the Copperbelt so that they can hear and act on our needs.”