Home » General » Zesa Workers’ Demo Flops

Planned demonstrations by Zesa Holdings employees flopped yesterday amid reports that a significant number of the workers had agreed to share the once off payment of $21 million being offered by management.

This comes in the wake of reports that the planned protests were being pushed by a “hidden political hand” bent on fomenting chaos and put Zimbabwe under the spotlight.

The workers are demanding $117 million in salary arrears arising from a 2012 collective bargaining agreement which management has ignored.

Management, while acknowledging the agreement, argues that the workers’ demands are unrealistic and can only be met through tariff increases.

The Engineer Josh Chifamba-led administration has instead offered $21 million to be spread over four months.

Zesa workers planned demonstrations at the power utility’s head office yesterday but only a few turned up before disappearing.

The protests were supposed to precede a two-day collective job action set for March 25 and 26.

Zesa spokesperson Mr Fullard Gwasira said a lot of workers had completed forms agreeing to share the amount on the table.

“We have made a feasible and pragmatic offer to staff. We are pleased that they have taken up the offer. This offer saves jobs and allows maintenance and improvement of power supplies.

“As for their collective job action, we have been informed about it and have taken the matter with our legal counsel.”

Mr Gwasira said current productivity levels made it impossible for Zesa to pay what was demanded by the 7 000-g workforce.

“Given the current (economic) environment, this move will impose a serious burden on customers and aersely affect electricity supply provision as it would mean diverting resources from operations and maintenance to salaries,” he said.

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.

Sources yesterday questioned the timing of the protests considering the issue had been going on for the past three years.

The sources accused some political elements opposed to the Zanu-PF government of instigating the protests to soil Zimbabwe’s image.

“Why the protests now when the issue has dragged on for the past three years?” said a source close to the developments.

“This leaves us certain that the reports that we are getting are true that there are political elements who are trying to get relevance and portray Zimbabwe as a failed state.

“They simply want to render the country ungovernable and they had targeted energy, which is a key sector in the economy.

“But they have hit a hard rock because a number of workers are now beginning to appreciate the economic situation prevailing and are accepting the money that is being offered,” said a source who declined to be identified.

Instead of paying the collective bargaining award when it was still affordable, the Zesa management for the past three years contested the result which came out as a result of Statutory Instrument 50 of 2012.

Zimbabwe Energy and Workers Union secretary general Mr Martin Chikuni said this was purely a labour issue which needed management’s attention.

“This is a workers’ issue and management should not claim someone is using us. We have notified them of the strike and if they do not respond we are going ahead.

“They might have tactics to intimidate the workers but what the employee needs is money accrued over the past three years,” said Mr Chikuni.

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.

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, through their unions, claim the liabilities to be $5 607 and $37 102, respectively.

Source : The Herald