By Felex Share
Zesa workers have said their demands for a 75 percent increase in salaries and holiday allowances are legitimate and within the confines of the law. The workers also said failure by the power utility management to honour the 2012 collective bargaining agreement would plunge the country into darkness as a strike was imminent.
The employees are demanding a 75 percent increase in salaries and allowances across the board, coupled with a five-day holiday for six family members at any three-star hotel, full school fees payment of up to four of the employees’ children, climate and cellphone, which will double the power utility’s monthly wage bill, which stands at $22 million.
An electricity tariff increase would be required to cover additional costs on the payroll, if the move is implemented.
Zimbabwe Energy Workers Union (ZEWU) and National Energy Workers Union of Zimbabwe (NEWUZ) — unions that represent the workers — on Tuesday held a joint Press conference saying their demands were reasonable.
NEWUZ secretary general Mr Thomas Masvingwe said: “With regards to the 75 percent demand by the unions, it is submitted that this demand is not only legitimate, but reasonable in the circumstances.
“Salaries have been eroded by well over 80 percent. The four-tier pricing system has eroded employees’ income to an extent that the current incomes are no longer able to sustain lives. We are not asking for a salary increase, but a cost of living adjustment. We want to maintain the purchasing power of the salaries.”
Mr Masvingwe said the Labour Act allowed them to make the demands and “media stunts” by management would not solve the existing impasse.
On allowances, Mr Masvingwe said: “This is perfectly legitimate. Collective bargaining entitles employees to lay their demands on the table.
“We want each employee to access holiday allowances for six people. The managers have this allowance and every year they go on international holidays with each spending in excess of $50 000.
The employees are asking for a three-star local holiday allowance, which will translate to about $100 per day. The new allowances we are claiming relate mostly to contract workers who simply get a basic pay.”
Mr Masvingwe said the lowest paid employee in Zesa was getting $222. This is contrary to a salary structure availed to The Herald showing that the lowest paid worker in grade A11 is earning $942. ZEWU secretary general Mr Martin Chikuni said a crisis was looming at the power utility.
“Instead of playing to the gallery, Zesa should without delay comply with the law or risk putting the whole nation into total darkness,” he said.
“We shall take measures, including strike action to secure the rights and interests of our members should (Josh) Chifamba (Zesa Holdings chief executive) continue throwing tantrums in the Press, while neglecting real issues. Our members should wait for signal from the leaders for action.”
Zesa has maintained that it has no capacity to honour the CBA as it incurred losses in the past six years.
The utility said honouring the agreement will see Zesa paying a sweeper $1 043 per month. Zesa’s revenue fluctuates between $53 million and $59 million monthly, with $22 million going towards salaries. The Herald