Innocent Ruwende and Virginia Kashiri
Harare City Council workers have accused Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni of being “hypocritical” over the contentious subject of the local authority’s salary structure since he has recently been complaining that his $1 200 monthly allowance was low.
According to the workers, Councillor Manyenyeni had erroneously compared council workers’ gross salaries, including overtime and other allowances, with the net salaries of their peers in Government.
The mayor recently claimed that HCC employment costs are the “big elephant” crippling council operations as even low-level employees are paid two to five times more than their counterparts in similar jobs elsewhere. The City of Harare monthly salary bill currently stands at $10 million.
Four unions representing more than 9 000 municipal workers — the Harare Municipal Workers’ Union, Water Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Urban Council Workers Union and the Zimbabwe Allied Municipal Workers’ Union (ZAMWU) — said they were surprised by Clr Manyenyeni’s decision to use the media as a negotiating platform.
“To put the record straight, our mayor has chosen to assume some executive power and started commenting on the area he is least knowledgeable (about). The salaries the city employees get are a result of negotiations,” said the unions in a statement on Thursday.
“During the tenure of our mayor (Manyenyeni), negotiations were done numerous times as enunciated in the Labour Act Chapter 28.01 and collective bargaining agreements are a clear testimony. The mayor’s office is supported by relevant professions for the smooth running of the city.”
The unions maintain that the mayor is least qualified to comment on council salaries as he was not “knowledgeable” about the issue. They further claim that in August last year, council, at the instigation of Clr Manyenyeni, engaged Industrial Psychology Consultants for a salary survey and benchmarking, but the report hasn’t been made public yet.
“In spite of his effort to have the report to himself, we also have it from reliable sources that City of Harare is generally paying market rates. There is no evidence to suggest that City of Harare is overpaying its employees in relation to the market. The report said affordability and sustainability of remuneration depends on the overall performance of the city, especially in relation to the revenue collected,” said the workers.
It was surprising, the city workers claim, for the mayor to say HCC is producing water of the poorest quality, yet the biggest water loan for the local authority was secured under his watch. During his tenure, the workers added, the city witnessed the privatisation of most of its revenue-generating units such as Easy Park, City Park, crusher stations, Harare Holdings, while debts ballooned to $700 million owing to poor revenue collection methods.
“As workers, we endured the longest period of non-payment of salaries again during his tenure. As trade unions, we demand our rights to be observed and respected, especially among other rights, bonuses and timeous payment of salaries,” said the workers.
Mayor Manyenyeni yesterday said he should not be blamed for merely pointing our facts as it was the numbers and not himself, that were doing the talking.
“This council did not set these salaries. The salaries cannot be afforded by the struggling council. How do they feel getting overpaid by struggling rate payers? All our efforts to negotiate correct pay levels have failed.”