State-owned mobile phone network operator, NetOne, is embroiled in a bruising legal battle with a communications workers union over unilateral variation of contracts and benefits for 80 of its employees. NetOne allegedly coerced its workers to agree to the unilateral decision to slash salaries by 50 percent or face retrenchment on the basis of the infamous three months notice.The State-owned mobile network operator wrote to the 80 workers, members of the Communications and Allied Services Workers Union of Zimbabwe, on October 28 last year, advising that it would cut their salaries by about 50 percent.
“Following address by management to staff on Thursday October 22, 2015 at Kopje Plaza third floor, this communication serves to advise you that your gross salary has been reviewed downwards by 47 percent effective 01 October 2015,” said chief executive Reward Kangai, currently suspended to facilitate probe into his conduct at NetOne.
The mobile network operator’s CEO was this week sent on three months forced leave to allow for a forensic audit into the company’s operations amid fears it could have been prejudiced millions of dol-
lars through underhand dealings.
Mr Kangai told workers that the board had approved the implementation of a performance management system to enable payment of performance related pay to staff and management, payable in the event that NetOne achieved its targets.
The firm had told the employees during a works council meeting on October 19 that the company was unable to sustain their salaries and benefits and would therefore, with immediate effect, slash their salaries and benefits in half. The company staggered the cuts over three months starting in October, but the company would not explain how it suddenly realised it was in red without informing its workers. CASWUZ claims the decision and action taken was unlawful and should be reversed. As such, the union took the matter to the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare seeking conciliation on the dispute.
The union said NetOne’s conduct is in violation of section 6 1a of the Labour Act, which prohibits the employer to pay employees salaries lower than what is specified by law or agreement. CASWUZ said the cutting of workers’ salaries was arbitrary and unilateral, as it was made without consultation and therefore violates provisions of section 65 of the Constitution that every person is entitled to fair and safe labour practices, standards and to be paid a reasonable wage.
“Wherefore, the claimants humbly pray that the unilateral variation of employment contracts reducing salaries 50 percent be and is hereby wholly set aside since it is unlawful and constitutes unfair labour practices. The respondent be and is hereby ordered to pay and reinstate employees salaries and benefits in terms of the agreement before the unilateral variation was made from the date of unilateral variation that is October 2015,” submitted CASWUZ.
The union claims the matter was never negotiated with workers or their representatives, neither was there any agreement between the employer and the employees since the employer simply announced at a works council meeting. The case, number 3887/15, was referred to conciliation on December 2 last year under labour officer L. Sigauke who issued a certificate of no settlement on the 2nd of this month.