ZIMBABWE United Passenger Company (Zupco) staff’s request to elect a new workers’ committee was last week turned down by management leaving the workers’ grouping in limbo, businessdigest has learnt.
This development comes after the workers committee resigned en masse, shaken by the dismissal of the employee body’s chairman Onson Mashinga.
He was dismissed after workers engaged Wintertons lawyer Exodus Donzvambeva to get their outstanding allowances. This has dealt a huge blow for workers’ efforts to get their dues from their employer.
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 said it could not pay salaries due to its precarious financial position which includes a debt overhang of more than US$15 million.
In a letter to Zupco dated October 21 2014, Transport & General Workers Union representative Takaedzwa Rusere requested that the union holds elections for a new Zupco worker’s committee on October 28.
“This request in terms of the Labour Act Chapter28:01 Section 23 under Part VI of the same Acts Arrangement of Sections,” Rusere wrote: “By copy of this document the union would like to request for the worker’s committee elections to be held on the 28th of October at 13:00hrs to 14:00 hrs at your above mentioned address.”
In its response, the bus company’s divisional operations manager Clifford Muwoni turned down the request.
“Reference is made to your letter dated 21 October 2014 where you requested to hold workers committee elections on 28 October 2014,” Muwoni wrote. “I regret to inform you that at the moment we are committed and the meeting cannot be approved. I suggest however that the meeting be scheduled for mid-November 2014.”
The response has angered workers who feel management is trying to frustrate their efforts to get their outstanding salaries and allowances.
When contacted for comment, Donzvambeva said he was not aware that the company had refused to allow the employees’ trade union representatives to assist in the setting up of a workers’ committee.
He described the move as “unconstitutional, unfortunate and regrettable”.
Donzvambeva said if the allegations are true, then Zupco was not acting in good faith and its conduct flew in the face of several provisions of the law as contained in section 65(1) of the new constitution of Zimbabwe as well as some sections in the Labour Act(Chapter 28:01).
The employer’s conduct, he said, was in violation of section 7(2)(b) of the Labour Act as read with sections 8 and 23(2) of the same act.
“It was well within the employees and trade union’s rights to approach the appropriate labour forum with complaints of unfair labor practices being perpetrated and perpetuated by the employer,” he said.
Workers are still to be paid their September and October salaries. Sources said families of the employees plan to demonstrate against the continued delay in the payment of salaries.
Zupco has since declined to comment on the problems affecting the company.