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Zupco wage fight hits major snag

ZIMBABWE United Passenger Company (Zupco) employees’ efforts to get outstanding salaries and allowances from their employer was dealt a huge blow after all members of the workers’ committee resigned in fear of victimisation by management, businessdigest has established.

Kudzai Kuwaza

The workers’ committee, together with their lawyer from Wintertons Legal Practitioners, Exodus Donzvambeva were scheduled to meet on Friday last week with the National Employment Council (NEC) for the Transport Operating Industry to have the union intervene in the dispute between the workers and their employer after the latter failed to submit a payment plan despite promising to liquidate the debt.

However, this was not possible as there was no one to represent the workers at the meeting.

More than 800 workers at Zupco engaged Donzvambeva in July this year to get their unpaid salaries and allowances amounting to more than US$1,3 million.

Zupco have said they have not paid salaries due to its precarious financial position which includes a debt overhang of more than US$15 million.

A member of the workers committee who stepped down said they had resigned in fear of being victimised after the company dismissed the workers’ committee chairman Onson Mashinga. This was after after they engaged Donzvambeva to demand their outstanding wages.

“Although our term of office had come to an end, we were supposed to continue until a new committee is in place. But given the dismissal of our chairman, we feel we could be next in the firing line.” the committee member said.

Mashinga was fired in August for offence number 31 of the code of conduct for the transport operating industry statutory instrument 67 of 2012, which is failure to comply with standing instructions or to follow established procedures.

In response to a July 30 letter by Donzvambeva who had given the company seven working days to pay outstanding salaries and allowances or face litigation, Zupco acting chief executive Tendai Masaire said Mashinga has no legal right to be representing the company’s employees to sue their employer.

“He (Mashinga) is the national workers committee chairperson but that does not give him powers to represent the employees outside the company,” Masaire said. “There is no indication that every one of the employees cited in the attachment on your letter agreed or authorised him to institute legal proceedings against the company.”

The resignation of the workers’ representatives has spurred the union to intervene and are making frantic efforts to help set up a new workers’ committee.

Donzvambeva confirmed that the meeting with the NEC for the Transport Operating Industry scheduled for last week Friday failed to take off after the workers’ committee resigned en masse.

“We were given October 17 as the hearing date by the union.”
Donzvambeva said “Unfortunately the employees did not have a workers’ committee to represent them. There was no one to give me instructions on how to proceed. We will have to wait until a new workers’ committee is put in place.”

Donzvambeva had earlier, on the instruction of the Zupco employees, written to the NEC for the Transport Operating Industry to intervene in the dispute between the workers and their employer.

“Our clients have instructed us to launch with your good offices several unfair labour practices which are being perpetrated against them by the employer,” Donzvambeva said “and these include non- payment of outstanding salaries, non- payment of food allowances for drivers and conductors, unpaid leave days, placing of employees on short time without approval from the NEC, non-payment for working on industrial holidays and non- payment of 6% increment which was effective on 6th July 2013”

Donzvambeva said the company has not bothered to engage workers for mutual discussions and “kindly request the urgent intervention of your good offices”

This comes at a time when Zupco employees are yet to be paid their September salaries, a development that has further dampened the morale of staff at the parastatal.

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