Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Reporter
The decision by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation to unilaterally cut workers’ salaries in January this year has backfired, with the employees now claiming a collective figure of US$1,5 million in salary arrears emanating from the cut.
The ZBC workers’ salaries were slashed to the levels of 2010 and the they are arguing that the decision was unlawful and not supported by the Labour Act.
Lawyers representing the workers, B Matanga Attorneys, have taken the matter up for conciliation after ZBC failed to engage them for a settlement despite numerous invitations.
The workers are seeking an immediate reversal of the decision and subsequent payment of the arrears that arose as a result of the underpayment since January.
Mr Dumisani Mthombeni of B Matanga Attorneys took the matter up to the principal labour officer in the Ministry of Labour and Social Services on September 30 and the workers now await a hearing date for the case.
The 465 workers wrote their first letter of demand in the spirit of engagement and waited for a response from ZBC for nearly two months before they approached the principal labour officer.
In a letter to the principal labour officer, Mr Mthombeni stated that the national broadcaster’s decision amounted to unfair labour practice.
“We have been instructed to refer and or bring to your attention the case of an unfair labour practice for conciliation in accordance with the provisions of Section 93 of the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01),” he said.
“At the beginning of January 2014, the workers’ salaries were unilaterally and unlawfully cut by their employer without first engaging them to seek their consent.
“Our clients advise that they have exhausted all domestic channels and remedies available to them in a futile bid to have their grievance addressed by their employer.”
Most workers are owed between US$2 000 and US$3 000 each in outstanding salaries, while a handful are claiming between US$10 000 and US$11 000.
The workers’ first letter to ZBC was written on August 1 this year, but ZBC acting chief executive Mr Allan Chiweshe promised to respond and treat the matter with urgency.
Mr Chiweshe’s letter dated August 6 2014 reads:
“Please be advised that we are looking into the matters raised by yourselves and we will inform you of our deliberations as soon as possible.
“We are treating this matter with the urgency it deserves.”
Since then no correspondence came from the employer, resulting in the workers’ lawyer Mr Mthombeni writing a second letter informing the company of the referral of the case for conciliation.