Chi-town municipal workers still singing the blues

HARARE - Chitungwiza municipal workers, who in January resolved to forego their allowances to ensure regular payment of their salaries, are still singing the blues after going seven months without pay.

It seems there is no solution in sight for the workers’ troubles as city fathers, who cruise in top-of-the-range vehicles and reside in some of Harare’s leafy suburbs continue to say the populous town is broke. Stung by the continued non-payment of their salaries which has left them with no money to pay utility bills and are in danger of being evicted from their rented homes, the workers have cornered the town’s administrators.

“We have written to management demanding answers as to why we are not being paid when we have sacrificed our allowances. They must give us satisfactory answers by tomorrow (today) or we will take drastic measures,” said Ephraim Katsina, the chairperson of Zimbabwe Urban Council Workers Union (ZUCWU), which represents Chitungwiza employees.

Katsina accused council administration of wasting time fighting personal wars while paying lip service to the welfare of employees.

“Our management is plagued by deep-seated divisions and they spend most of their time trying to outdo each other at the expense of our welfare. We are saying to them ‘enough is enough’ because we know if they want to be serious, they can get money to pay us but they are putting their interests ahead of workers,” charged Katsina.

Chitungwiza town clerk George Makunde said council’s hands were tied because of a liquidity crunch.

An $800 000 loan facility promised to the council by bankers came to nought leaving the municipality at the mercy of angry workers, he said.

“Resources are the problem and we cannot really do anything about it because the economic environment is very hostile. Even our bankers who had promised us some money have failed to avail the funds owing to the punishing economic climate because there is no sufficient circulation of money on the market,” he said.

“There is no need for workers to be militant because at times the difference might be the same. The money does not come from the pocket of the town clerk and they know very well that residents are not paying their dues to council,” he said.

Makunde passed the buck to previous administrations which he accused of borrowing extensively and using the money with “very little care”.

“These are problems we inherited from the previous administration which borrowed carelessly to line their pockets at the expense of service delivery. The employees are complicit in this as it was at their behest that the debts were accrued as they pushed them (management) to the wall demanding salaries,” he said, before taking a dig at the workers.

“The irony is that the majority of these employees are not qualified for their jobs, hence they are unproductive, yet they want to beat drums in protest at every turn. They must be warned that every action has its consequences,” Makunde said.

In January, Chitungwiza workers chose to forego all of their allowances in return for regular payment of salaries after council had proposed to either introduce special measures to avoid retrenchment by reducing working hours as enunciated in chapter 28 (01) section 12 of the Labour Act or maintain the status quo.

The employees argued that the other option would have affected their pensions. - Mugove Tafirenyika

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