The following is a brief synopsis of why PTUZ will not support the COPAC draft constitution which we believe is seriously in contravention of international labour best practices. We have identified more than twenty (20) reasons which will avail to you, but in this circular we will give you six (6) of them. However, the decision to vote ‘YES/NO’ rests with each individual member.
1) No harmonization of labour laws
The draft constitution disregarded what we said loudly and clearly, during the COPAC outreach meetings that all workers should be governed by one labour law regime. Disappointingly, while Section 65 confers labour rights to all workers in the private sector, Section 203 creates an animal called the Civil Service Commission, which will deal with civil servants’ salaries, benefits and discipline. This is not the practice in other countries with progressive constitutions.
2) No collective bargaining for civil servants
During the COPAC outreach meetings, we categorically stated that civil servants need collective bargaining powers. Surprisingly, Section 203 (4) of the draft says that salaries, allowances and other benefits of civil servants will be fixed by the Civil Service Commission with the approval of the President on the recommendation of Ministers of finance and Civil Service. This is against the international best practice. In Ethiopia, Namibia and South Africa, civil servants have full rights to collective bargaining.
3) No living wage in the constitution
During the consultative meetings by COPAC, we submitted that a living wage be expressly provided for in the constitution as in progressive constitutions like that of South Africa. Sadly,Section 65 (1) vaguely talks of a fair and reasonable wage. This is not only subjective, but unscientific. What was desirable was a living wage or a poverty datum line-linked salary. This is calculable and not subject to manipulation. Further, civil servants’ salaries will be “fixed” by the Civil Service Commission using the rule of the thumb, which is what has been happening since 1980.
4) Partisan Civil Service Commission
Teachers were unequivocal during the COPAC outreach meetings that they want a Teaching Profession Council and a Teaching Service Commission to deal with the discipline, salaries and conditions of service for teachers. Sadly, COPAC decided to throw out this submission through the window. Section 202 (1) provides for a Civil Service Commission, which is appointed by the President. There is no provision for representation of labour or gender balance. It was desirable for the COPAC draft to provide for 50% representation of labour. The appointment of Commission members must not be done solely by the President, but through the Parliament Public Office Appointments Committee and approved by the National Assembly.
5) Prohibition of civil servants from politics
Civil servants are citizens just like anyone else. It is a frontal attack on the entire working class for Section 200 (4) to ban civil servants from being office-bearers of political parties of their choice. This is against what other progressive constitutions in the world provide. For example, the constitutions of Malawi and that of Ethiopia allow civil servants to engage in politics. They only ban a specific class of senior civil servants. This could have been better if the intention was to prevent permanent secretaries, army and police generals, the registar-general and other senior civil servants from acting in a partisan manner.
6) Death penalty discriminatory
The death penalty is discriminatory in that it still treats women as minors as they are exempted. Furthermore, it can be manipulated by merchants of violence from political parties who can use women to perform heinous murder activities.
7) No right to education
While Section 75 claims that everyone has the right to a basic state-funded education, there is a rider in Section 75 (4) which says “…within the limits of the resources available…” This is an abdication of responsibility by the state. Clearly, there will be no student grants to our children at colleges and university if this constitution becomes the supreme law of the land.
RAYMOND MAJONGWE (SECRETARY-GENERAL)