Tempers flared ahead of the festive holidays after council employees owed over 20 months in unpaid salaries confronted management at Town House demanding their backdated salaries on Friday last week.
But town clerk Elizabeth Gwatipedza responded by suspending the top three workers’ Works Council leaders on allegations of inciting other employees to engage in riotous behavior and sabotage of the local authority’s operations.
In a letter dated December 16 and signed by acting town engineer Ernest Chigwagwa, the local authority suspended chairperson of Water Authority Workers’ Union Caroline Mashayandebvu, vice-chairperson of the Zimbabwe Urban Councils Workers’ Union Casian Takaza and Taurai Zulu, vice-chairperson of the Zimbabwe Urban and Rural Councils Workers’ Union.
Gwatipedza told NewsDay the workers had been suspended for engaging in an illegal job action and will soon face a disciplinary hearing to answer to the charges preferred against them.
The suspended workers have since dismissed the move by Gwatipedza as victimisation of the workers’ leaders in an attempt to evade the implementation of an arbitration award compelling the local authority to pay its workers by December 31.
“Workers did not strike neither were they riotous or incited for that matter. They simply went to Town House to get their salaries because these guys have suffered for too long while top management marinate themselves in allowances.
“On November 11 we were given an arbitration award that compels council to pay us by December 31 and as far as we know, there is no plan in place to effect that order and suspending workers representatives is just a way of trying to silence us,” said one of the suspended workers.
But Gwatipedza maintained the workers engaged in an illegal job action, saying if they wanted their salaries they should have gone to the bank where their salaries are deposited.
“We don’t give workers money in envelopes here and therefore their coming here was an illegal job action,” she said.
An arbitration award granted in at the Gweru Labour Court in favour of the employees reads:
“Agree and reinstate negotiated allowances as this move will help applicants (workers) who have endured a long and torturous period of financial difficulties . . . agreement to be expeditiously concluded and implemented before December 31.”