Lusaka, Thursday (April 30, 2024)

Government says it is aware that the Cotton Sub-sector uses a lot of chemicals in production.

Ministry of Labour and Social Security Permanent Secretary, Zechariah Luhanga said it is, therefore, important that employees and farmers in the sector are provided with personal protective equipment and occupational health services.

Mr. Luhanga said this when he officially opened a dialogue in Lusaka under the theme; “Weaving threads: sustainability advancing decent work in the Zambian Cotton Sector” supported by Solidaridad, Trust Africa and We Effect.

He said Government is advancing decent work in the Zambian Cotton Sub-sector to set a benchmark for the world to follow.

Mr. Luhanga, said Government is ready to support the Cotton Sub-sector to promote policies, strategies and regulations that safeguard decent work and secure the workers rights.

“As we gather here today under the theme; “Weaving threads: sustainability advancing decent work in the Zambian Cotton Sector”, I wish to remind you all that decent work is underpinned by four pillars and forms the cornerstone of harmonious labour relations,” he said.

The Permanent Secretary said the sector must adhere to the four pillars of decent work are productive and freely chosen work, rights at work, social protection, and social dialogue.

“Clearly, decent work is more than just a job. This is what we want to see within the Zambian Cotton Sector and beyond. Today’s meeting serves as a platform to reflect on the practices within the cotton sector that are aligning with this noble goal. The cotton sector remains instrumental in the transformation of our economy,” he said.

Mr. Luhanga said with the current drive, and pronouncements by President Hakainde Hichilema and in line with the Eighth National Development Plan, aspirations that encourages local industries, the need for adherence to decent work principles for the cotton subsector has become an imperative.

He said decent work for the cotton sub-sector means a fair living wage to all persons, whether employed formally or informally, access to social security coverage for employees and farmers, freedom to form trade unions for workers, a safe working environment and zero tolerance of child labour.

“Does the current state of the cotton sub-sector adhere to principles of decent work? This a point of reflection for all. In addition, Government is promoting the extension of social security coverage to informal sectors, including agriculture. The cotton sub-sector can serve as a vehicle to help farmers acquire social security coverage. We are dedicated to ensuring that the Zambian Cotton Sector not only thrives economically but does so on the foundation of fairness, equality, and respect for the dignity of every worker,” he said.

Speaking earlier, Cotton Board of Zambia (CBZ) Board Chairperson Raymond Mpundu said the Board is dedicated towards the betterment and sustainable advancement of the cotton industry.

“In this journey towards sustainability and growth, the principle of ‘decent work’ stands as a beacon guiding our path forward. Decent work encapsulates more than just employment; it embodies the aspirations for equity, dignity, and respect in the workplace,” he said.

Mr. Mpundu said decent work means providing every worker in the cotton sector with fair conditions of employment, a voice in their workplace, and freedom from exploitation.

“This involves not only adhering to national labor laws but also embracing international labor standards that protect and empower workers. It is about ensuring that every individual involved in the cotton value chain, from the small-scale farmer to the factory worker, has access to opportunities for productive work under conditions of freedom, equity, security, and human dignity,” he said.

TrustAfrica commended the efforts from government and cotton stakeholders to advance decent work.

Through the Reclaim Sustainability Programme, a Cotton Multistakeholder platform was established to promote inclusivity and sustainability in the cotton sector and this will be a strategic platform to promote decent work in the cotton sector.

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