Unions blame low pay on chefs’ unpaid bills

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The Zimbabwe Energy Workers’ Union told Parliament on Monday failure by ‘chefs’ in government to settle electricity bills was to blame for poor salaries as utilities are failing to pay them due to huge amounts owed.

The union, made up of Zesa affiliates, Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), Green Fuel and Rural Electrification Agency, told the Public Service and Labour Committee that amounts owed to Zinwa were another contributory factor to their low salaries.

“The bad debtors who are not paying their utility bills are the big gurus, and we feel if they were to pay the outstanding amounts our companies would be able to pay us,” said union president Angeline Chitambo.

“There is also too much interference during wage negotiations by the Minister of Energy and Power Development (Elton Mangoma), as well as a lot of nepotism by management when it comes to job vacancies.”

“The interference started in 2009 during Elias Mudzuri’s tenure as minister and when Elton Mangoma took over the reins, we encouraged him to look at the issue of the workers and he said his hands were tied and could not override Mudzuri’s decisions.

“One thing politicians forget is that workers are also politicians and it is us who vote for them. We can hit back if they choose to ignore our demands.”

Other challenges faced by the workers include failure by their organisations to remit union funds, alleged victimisation of union leaders, pensioners going empty-handed, “casualisation and contractualisation of labour”.

The Posts and Telecommunications Workers’ Union led by Lovemore Matombo said Zimpost, NetOne and TelOne were operating without boards, making it difficult for unions to air their grievances.

Matombo said the three State-operated companies did not follow collective bargaining agreements and dismissed employees engaged in trade unionism.

“NetOne and TelOne just moved out of National Employment Councils. Econet has even challenged the Companies Act. The Executive Union of Zimpost was suspended from 2004 up to now,” said Matombo.