Felex Share Senior Reporter
Zesa workers are demanding an outrageous 75 percent increase in salaries and allowances across the board, a move that will almost double the power utility’s monthly wage bill from the current $22 million, The Herald can reveal.

The workers also want an introduction of new allowances for every permanent employee, chief among them a five-day holiday for six family members at any three-star hotel, full school fees payment for up to four of the employees’ children, “climate” and cellphone allowances.

Apart from unreasonably pushing up the wage bill, the demands, if met, will also have a heavy bearing on electricity consumers, as a tariff increase must be effected to cover additional costs on the payroll.

Zesa’s revenue fluctuates between $53 million and $59 million monthly.

The workers, represented by the Zimbabwe Energy Workers Union (ZEWU) and National Energy Workers Union of Zimbabwe (NEWUZ), said most of their demands emanated from a 2012 collective bargaining agreement, which management defied.

Another union, Energy Sector Workers Union of Zimbabwe, has also come up with a host of demands, which they said should be implemented to “restore corporate legacy.”

The lowest paid Zesa employee in grade A11 (a sweeper) is getting $940 (gross), while a junior engineer in grade D2 is getting $4 900.

Honouring the collective bargaining agreement will see Zesa paying a sweeper $1 043.

In their position paper to management dated January 10, the workers cited changes in “the macro-economic environment” as the basis for their demands.

They said a five-tier pricing system existing in the country had seen their salaries being eroded by more than 80 percent.

The workers said the last pay rise was in 2013.

“The macro-economic environment over the past three years has been on a progressive decline with the steepest price hikes being experienced in the last six months of 2017,” reads the position paper prepared by ZEWU and NEWUZ.

“The rise in the cost of living has continued unabated and has reached alarming levels in recent weeks. One of the critical factors, which has led to the erosion of workers’ salaries is the shortage of cash, be it bond notes or US dollars. To make matters worse, for one to access cash, one has to sleep at a bank and get less than $50 or get it on the black market where charges have escalated to more than 80 percent, especially for US dollars.”

Added the workers: “This undoubtedly has led to the salaries of workers being depreciated by more than 80 percent, as most of them have no access to cash and they will either use swipe or EcoCash price, which is higher than the bond or US dollar price.”

The workers said the new stipends they wanted introduced included driving, locality, electricity benefit for contract workers, climate, clothing, danger and holiday allowances for every worker.

They also want an increase in existing allowances.

These include non-pensionable allowance (by 20 percent), housing (15 percent), retention allowance (10 percent), responsibility allowance (15 percent), transport allowance (from $70 to $160), and canteen allowance (from $25 to $120).

They also want overtime to be calculated using “actual, not basic earnings.”

In a letter to Zesa Holdings chief executive Engineer Josh Chifamba, ESWUZ, which had threatened job action yesterday, said: “Allowances bargained for in 2009, i.e, tools, switching, locality, to name just a few were varied or removed without explanation and awarded to managers in D3 and above who were not covered by the scope of negotiations.”

The union accused management of bankrolling political activities and issuing free electricity benefit to all Ministry of Energy and Power Development officials at an “irrecoverable cost to the public.”

Yesterday’s planned job action flopped as it was declared “illegal” by management.

Zesa said it failed to honour the CBA due to financial incapacity, as it had incurred “great” losses in the past six years.

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