John Manzongo At the Workplace
Two critical areas that I have realised many employers seem to be violating are up for discussion in this instalment: the rampant abuse of students on industrial attachment; and child labour, especially in farming.
All workers at some point started off as students or interns and knowledge was imparted to us in a friendly manner, which enabled us to grasp the concepts of our various trades.
What we now see is that some unscrupulous employers are deliberately employing students from school or colleges so that they can overwork and underpay them.
This practice is rampant in the tourism, hospitality and catering sector.
Employers in these sectors are making money while exploiting the students all in the name of imparting knowledge and experience.
The students are being subjected to very long working hours, poor remuneration, no tea or lunch breaks, and no transport provision even if they finish work at midnight.
The situation is worse for females, who tend to be more vulnerable than males.
Employers are capitalising on the school holidays and they deliberately send their regular staff on forced leave so as to engage the services of the students.
The students can start work before 8am and finish around 11pm.
The labour laws of this country clearly state that an employee must work for a maximum of eight hours per day, and is entitled to at least one break in between (tea or lunch).
Exploited students are going for 15 hours, an hour short of a double shift, every day.
Upon finishing work that late, they then have to find their own means of transport to go home. This leaves them vulnerable to overcharging commuter omnibus crews, and – worse still – robbers, rapists and murderers.
Come month-end, the student will earn a paltry salary which cannot even sustain his or her needs.
We come across these unfortunate workers all over. In hotels they are practising as chefs, waiters, housekeepers and cleaners; but we are too busy or totally unconcerned to notice that things are not well for them.
We see them in factories and warehouses, in supermarkets and at restaurants. They are everywhere.
It is very difficult for these students to complain about the poor working conditions because they are still in college and they need to impress their possible future employer. They want to get good marks for their internship and they want to build contacts.
So they grin stoically and bear it all.
Coming to the issue of child labour, this is something that the authorities only talk about on designated UN days and then forget about for the rest of the year.
Many people are now into farming after the land resettlement programme that saw blacks moving into commercial farming.
It seems the many abusive business practices of white former farmers have been adopted by black farmers, who ironically only yesterday were crying about oppression.
Children in farming communities are a cheap form of labour for many farmers.
Many farmers have turned out to be successful but if we trace how they make such huge profits we will be in for a disgusting surprise.
The scourge of HIV and Aids continues to leave many families child-headed.
These children have to take care of their siblings and because they have no education or experience, they go to the farms and offer up their cheap labour, which farmers gladly take.
They work hard and are paid a little money, with food, clothing or have school fees paid for them.
We have seen many children working on farms dressed in party regalia, which we hear has been looted and stocked as a form of payment for these labourers.
Children are spending their childhood slaving on tobacco farms. The tobacco farmers live the high life in towns and cities, the children sleep on empty stomachs.
It is sad and shameful to say the least.