A LEGAL battle looms at state-owned bus operator, Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) as more than 800 workers have engaged a lawyer in an attempt to get their unpaid salaries and allowances amounting to more than US$1,3 million.
Workers at the troubled parastatatal have engaged a lawyer, Exodus Donzvambeva from Wintertons Legal Practioners in Harare, who has ordered the company’s management to pay up outstanding wages or face litigation.
A source said workers from both the Bulawayo branch and head office in Harare had agreed to put together money to pay the lawyer to fight for their rights which they feel were being trampled upon by management.
“We have engaged Donzvambeva to help address our issues. We pooled our funds to engage him to help us fight our case. We are confident that this will help us as we cannot continue with this sorry state of affairs where we are being continually abused,” a source said.
In a letter dated July 30 2014 to the Zupco legal officer only identified as R Mutetwa, Donzvambeva gave management a seven-day ultimatum to pay outstanding salaries or face litigation.
“We refer to the above matter(workers grievances) in which we act on the instructions of Onson Mashinga (workers committee chairman) and 813 other employees of Zupco,” he said.
“Several grievances have been brought to our attention amid allegations that the company has failed, neglected or refused to address same. We have been informed that our clients are owed outstanding salaries in the region of US$700 000 (which accrued as a result of salaries which were not paid in 2009 and 2010); outstanding salaries for April May and June 2014 amounting to
US$ 600 000.
“Food allowances for drivers and conductors from December 2013 to date (the amount continues to accrue everyday but is currently in the region of US$600); unpaid leave days; placing of employees on short-time without approval from the relevant authorities as provided for in terms of the law and non-payment of 6% increment which was effective on 6th of July 2013.”
He warned that failure to effect all the payments due and owing to their clients within seven working days of the receipt of the letter would result in litigation without further notice.
“We hope that you can comply with our client’s demand to avoid litigation in a matter that can be resolved amicably,” Donzvambeva said.
In response copied to board chairman Chipo Dyanda, Mutetwa said they would look into the matter and provide a response.
“Kindly please bear with us as we look into the matter. We will get back to you with our response shortly,” she said.
Donzvambeva confirmed that he has been hired by the aggrieved workers.
The latest move comes at a time some of the employees were recently sent on forced leave for one month. The parastatal had sent other workers for two weeks unpaid leave as it battles to cut costs.
The company had in March made a decision to send workers on unpaid leave for three months.
Maternity leave, sources say, had also been converted into unpaid leave.
The decision was only rescinded after angry protests by workers and the intervention of the trade union for transport.
In May, employees besieged the company’s head offices demanding their salaries. The workers were so incensed that they had intended to go on strike. However, they backed down after the chairman of the workers’ committee warned them at the time that would have been illegal as they had not given the mandatory two week notice before going on the job action.
Zupco has since declined to comment on the problems at the transport company.