Workers’ unions blast Zesa

Felex Share Senior Reporter
Workers’ unions representing Zesa Holdings employees yesterday hit out at the power utility’s management, saying their threat to increase electricity tariffs by 6 percent is a ploy to get public sympathy for corruption and ineptitude.

The workers threatened a collective job action countrywide to force management to pay the $117 million salary arrears.

Zesa management ignored a collective bargaining agreement they signed with the workers in 2012 and has on several occasions unsuccessfully challenged the pact.

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The agreement followed the gazetting of Statutory Instrument 50 of 2012.

Realising that there was no way out and they had lost the dispute before two independent arbitrators, management this week dangled $21 million for the 7 000 workers, which they said would be spread over four months.

The power utility, while conceding the bungling, said the demands by the workers were unrealistic and would only be achieved through increasing tariffs by 6 percent.

Responding to the issue in a joint statement, the Zimbabwe Energy Workers Union and the National Energy Workers Union of Zimbabwe said the management was making threats in a bid to dodge their obligations.

The unions said Zesa management wanted to get public sympathy for their ineptitude.

“It is not true that Zesa lacks capacity to implement (the collective bargaining agreement) and it is also false that Zesa needs a tariff increment to effect the award,” the unions said.

“This is simply a propaganda design to draw sympathy for inept, corrupt management. The unions will not stand by and watch the livelihoods of their members destroyed by a few greedy and corrupt individuals. Accordingly, the unions shall call a nationwide job action in defence of the right and existence of their members.”

The collective bargaining agreement provided for Zesa to effect a minimum increment of $275 and 12 percent grade differentials, 2,5 percent step (notch) differentials, non-pensionable allowance (30 percent of basic salary), $70 transport allowance and $23 canteen allowance (grade 1 to D2) with effect from January 2012.

The dispute is also likely to cost Zesa another $5 million in tax liabilities, according to calculations by the Ministry of Energy and Power Development.

The unions said Zesa’s salary to revenue ratio stood at less than 15 percent, making it possible for them to afford the arrears.

“Management diverted Zesa funds to sponsor factionalism (in Zanu-PF) at the expense of employees,” said the unions.

“It is common knowledge that some managers have shares in companies which supply pre-paid meters and copper harvesting companies.”

Former Energy and Power Development Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire and his deputy Engineer Munacho Mutezo were fired from Government after they abused Zesa funds to help former Vice President Dr Joice Mujuru’s plot to remove President Mugabe.

Dr Mujuru was also fired from Government.

In its argument filed before arbitrators, retired Supreme Court Judge Justice Ahmed Ebrahim and Professor Emmanuel Magade, Zesa Holdings said abiding by the award would result in the payroll shooting by $5,6 million per month, a figure that can only be raised through increasing tariffs.

Zesa head of finance Mr Eliab Chikwenhere said the firm was in a “parlous financial situation” and its liabilities exceeded the assets.

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