Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
Zesa Holdings might have accumulated $130 million in arrears arising from a 2012 collective bargaining agreement salary increase it has refused to honour and is contesting. The power utility’s bank balances could be pegged significantly if it loses the dispute before an independent arbitrator. The dispute was referred for arbitration by the High Court.
Zesa may also have to pay in excess of $5 million in tax liabilities, according to calculations by the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, arising from the 2012 CBA dispute.
Only in July, the company awarded workers an interim 4 percent increase to quell potential industrial action after aggrieved workers threatened to down tools over salary issues.
Zimbabwe Energy Workers Union general secretary Mr Martin Chikuni said Zesa indicated during filing of arguments in arbitration that according to the workers’ CBA claims, it would have to part with $130 million if it lost the case.
The CBA agreement provided for Zesa to effect a minimum of $275 and 12 percent grade differentials, 2,5 percent step (notch) differentials, non-pensionable allowance (30 percent of basic salary), $70 transport allowance, $23 canteen allowance (grade 1 to D2) with effect from January 2012.
Efforts to get a comment from Zesa were not fruitful as Zesa spokesman Mr Fullard Gwasira could not be reached yesterday. Chief executive Josh Chifamba was also not available.
However, Mr Chikuni said Zesa had argued that it would not pay its workers using union-determined salary rates that started from grade A1.
The rates were introduced at the inception of the national employment council for the energy industry in 2012.
“Once the arbitrators make their determination, Zesa may have to effect increases on the basis of the 2012 CBA,” he said.
“The 2012 CBA dispute is still on despite the interim increase.”
The increase was for the 2012 bargaining period.
If Zesa loses the case at arbitration and does not contest the case further, it may be hit by a double whammy since interim increase would also have to track back salary levels to 2012.
The power utility allegedly argued that its grading system started from A3 and not A1, as per the position of the energy industry’s National Employment Council formed in 2012.
Ironically, its lowest grade of A3 has a lower salary of $275 per month compared to the industry’s lowest grade of A1, which according to ZEWU should be paid at $380,77 per month.
ZEWU represents the interests of energy workers in Zimbabwe membership tops 6 400. Zesa is ZEWU’s biggest constituency.
According to the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, the least worker is owed $1 628 while the highest paid (skilled) worker should get about $2 418 but workers claim the liabilities to be $5 607 and $37 102, respectively.