Gono in trouble

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Employees of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) have lost patience with their employer and threatened to drag it to an arbitrator after the board of the financially-distressed institution allegedly reneged on its promise to review their $150 allowances and settle overdue salary arrears.
The rage escalated this week after the central bank, by yesterday had failed to pay June allowances, which were due last Friday – a sign that more drama and headaches await Gideon Gono, the governor and chairman of the RBZ.
Insiders say the decision to take legal action against that bank is also an attempt to forestall or influence the impending retrenchments that may claim over two thirds of their number, estimated at nearly 4 000.
Meeting for the second time this week, the RBZ board is said to have overturned the commitment it made during its inaugural meeting on May 18 to review the current allowances, pay outstanding salary arrears and meet other contractual obligations to employees, particularly senior managers.
In breach of contract, the central bank withdrew mobile phone allowances, fuel, medical aid, school fees, housing allowances, vehicles and other contractual benefits of employees in February last year when the country switched to multiple currencies.
The bank also offloaded its employees onto the government payroll, which for the time being is supporting them to the tune of $150 per month.
But after convening his first board meeting, Gono wrote a memorandum to employees advising them that he would do a headcount of staff and make every effort to pay salary arrears.
“These issues (discussed by the board) included the need to deploy strategies to raise adequate funding for settlement of outstanding salaries to staff, as well as other contractual obligations that are not being met as a result of inadequate funding,” Gono said in the memorandum.
“In due course, the board’s human resources and remunerations committee will be following up in detail the assessment of the bank’s structure, headcount and remuneration systems with a view to coming up with a comprehensive response in dealing with outstanding issues.”
“As governor, I want to thank you all for remaining steadfast and committed in discharging your duties under very difficult circumstances,” he added.
The latest attempt to reverse this pledge has therefore infuriated employees who cannot wait until the bank secures funding to afford a modest standard of living.
One of the leaders of the RBZ workers’ committee Wilton Mugabe could not reveal the details of the planned legal action in a telephone interview yesterday, saying he would need to consult first before making a statement.
But Newsday has it on good authority that RBZ employees have agreed to contribute $2 each and hire a lawyer who would represent them in their labour dispute with the central bank.
However, the delay in receiving their allowances has affected some of the employees who were hoping to pay their contributions from the income.
If the legal action goes ahead as planned, then the central bank may find it difficult to effect its retrenchments.
The downsizing of the central bank is being done in line with the recommendation of the International Monetary Fund, which wants the institution restructured and brought back to normal staffing levels, necessary to drive the core operations of the bank.
The restructuring will prune the RBZ of its non-core subsidiaries and quasi-fiscal projects and programmes that have since been discontinued.
The idea is to wean the bank from the fiscus and have it run on revenue flows from its commercial services to the banking sector, notably national payment services.