Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Council workers threaten strike

By Mashudu Netsianda

Bulawayo City Council (BCC) workers are threatening to down tools citing incapacitation and delays in salary payments, a development that is likely to affect the city’s service delivery system.

Bulawayo City Hall
Bulawayo City Hall

On Monday, workers under the banner Zimbabwe Urban Councils Workers Union (ZUCWU) convened outside the Bulawayo City Hall to express their concerns over failure by BCC management to address their grievances over poor salaries among other demands.

The least paid BCC worker earns a basic salary of $1 900. According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat), the latest Poverty Datum Line (PDL) for an average family of five stands at $17 244,07.

In July, the Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube admitted that council was struggling to pay its workers and delivering effective service to its residents.

Council’s revenue declined by 80 percent in the past four months.

According to a council report, in March, the local authority managed to collect $15 million but after the declaration of the lockdown, revenue inflows tumbled to $3 million in April.

The chairperson of ZUCWU Bulawayo branch, Mr Ambrose Sibindi said they gave council management a petition expressing their grievances around poor salaries and non-payment of Covid-19 allowances.

He said workers were now incapacitated due to poor salaries.

“As workers we are saying we are now incapacitated because the money that we are getting as workers is now peanuts with the lowest getting $1 900 basic salary. What can you do with $1 900? We wrote our position paper to council on the 28th of August 2020 so that we negotiate and that process is still outstanding,” said Mr Sibindi.

“Council is taking too long because in that position paper we were clear that we were supposed to have salaries reviewed effective September and now we are in mid-November we haven’t agreed on anything and as workers we are fed up and enough is enough.”

Mr Sibindi said workers were also demanding clarity on the issue of their annual bonuses.

“Our employer is not clear on when we are getting our bonuses because naturally, we get bonuses in November and we are just three or four days away from bonus payment date and council hasn’t communicated and we are worried because there is no response,” he said.

Mr Sibindi said council is also failing to honour pay dates with some workers yet to receive their October salaries.

“We demand that council must pay us on the stipulated pay dates which is the 23rd of each month. There is also an issue of staggering and we are saying all workers must be paid on the same day because this is dividing workers, and council is talking advantage of that because there won’t be a collective decision,” he said.

Mr Sibindi said they wrote to council in March demanding Covid-190 allowances and up to now the issue hasn’t been resolved.

“We are aware that the world over and even here in Zimbabwe some organisations are paying their workers Covid-19 allowances. As council workers we are very much exposed to Covid-19. Our argument is that most of our services we deal with the community,” he said.

“We gave the management our petition on Monday and they haven’t responded. We are saying the least paid workers should get at least $18 000. Most of the people in that category are due for retirement and that basic salary will be considered in terms of pension, which means those people will be affected even after work.”

Mr Sibindi said top management enjoys huge perks while the majority of workers were struggling. He said if council delays in addressing their issues, they will be forced to declare incapacitation, affecting service delivery.

Mr Dube, the town clerk, yesterday confirmed having received the petition.

He said low revenue inflows made it difficult for council to meet some of the workers’ demands.

“We received the workers’ petition and we are going to act on those demands that are within our reach, but most of them are beyond capacity of council. We are however, going to have negotiations with all stakeholders until a solution is found,” he said.

“Year 2020 was a very difficult year for council for both employees and residents who are struggling to pay their council dues. We will have no option but to opt for vigorous and tougher ways to force residents to honour their obligations otherwise we sink.”

Revenue inflows into council coffers have been erratic since the country went into lockdown on 30 March.

In a recent report, BCC indicated that it was considering billing residents in foreign currency and has re-adopted selling of residential stands in US dollars. The council said it was no longer sustainable to use local currency as it was losing value and affecting service delivery.

Last month BCC proposed a supplementary budget of $550 792 328 and a 2021 annual budget of $16 billion.

Residents are however, accusing BCC of directing a huge chunk of its resources towards salaries and administration costs at the expense of service delivery. The Chronicle

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