ZCTU reports ED’s government to ILO over Zesa wage row

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PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government faces a major setback in its efforts to lure investment after the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions last week wrote to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) accusing the government of anti-trade union discrimination.

This follows the reluctance by the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), a subsidiary of ZESA to comply with the 2012 Collective Bargaining Agreement that had the effective of increasing the minimum basic salary of its employees to 275 dollars.

In a letter addressed to the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association ZCTU Secretary General, Japhet Moyo said the government of Zimbabwe, which wholly owns the subsidiary, was violating international labour rules by promoting anti-union discrimination as ZETDC was accountable to government through the Ministry of Energy and Power Development.

“We would like to draw your attention to the serious violations of article 1,2,3 and 4 of the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining  Convention of 1949  (No 98), by the government of Zimbabwe as well as the principles of freedom of association,” Moyo wrote in a letter also copied to Zimbabwe’s Ministers of Labour and Energy

The complaint by the labour body will likely see Zimbabwe on the agenda of the International Labour Conference, which is held annually in June.

That fly in the face of the new administration’s “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra which Mnangagwa is peddling to both national and international investors.

Moyo said the power utility was violating ILO Convention 98 on the right to Organize and Collective Bargaining by refusing to honour a collective bargaining agreement which was registered in terms of Section 79 (1) of the Labour Act and published as Statutory Instrument 50 of 2012.

The power utility company defied the CBA and instead, offered settlement payment direct to individual employees.

The workers then took the matter to the High Court , which under case Number  HH887-15, ordered ZESA to  stop offering its employees settlement back pays or salaries which it unilaterally and arbitrarily computed  without the involvement of the trade unions and to desist from negotiating directly with its employees.

On 27 November 2017, the Energy Sector Workers Union of Zimbabwe (ESWUZ) wrote a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of ZESA Holdings setting out their issues of concern among which was corruption and the refusal to comply with the agreement.

 ZESA Holdings’ Chief Executive Office Joshua Chifamba acknowledged the dispute but pleaded incapacity to pay the salary and benefits scales arising from the said collective bargaining agreement.

This led to the dragging of the dispute, prompting the restless workers and their unions to embark on collective job action, to which the company responded by suspending trade union leaders, including ZCTU Vice President, Florence Taruvinga, who is employed as a technician by the ZETDC and causing the arrest of the ZCTU Deputy Secretary General, Thomas Masvingwe, who is also the General Secretary of ESWUZ.