WORKERS in the country’s energy sector have given a seven-day notice of their intention to go on strike to force their employers into wage negotiations for 2014.
The workers, the bulk of whom are employed by Zesa Holdings and its subsidiaries, wrote to the Energy Employers’ Association on August 18 through the National Energy Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe (NEWUZ) and the Zimbabwe Energy Workers’ Union (ZEWU), giving a seven-day notice to strike.
“The grounds for the intended action are as follows: The employers have blatantly refused to engage in Collective Bargaining negotiations for 2014 in respect of wages and other ancillary matters.
The reasons being given by the employers are insipid, not cogent and invalid,” read part of the letter, signed by the general-secretaries of the two unions and copied to the National Employment Council for the Energy Sector.
Thomas Masvingwe, the general secretary of NEWUZ, warned yesterday that there was going to be a total shutdown as the strike would be held in terms of Section 65 of the new Constitution, thereby making the issuing of a show cause order stopping the strike unlawful.
“The intended job action is clearly distinguishable from all actions which have been held in Zimbabwe in that it is being held in terms of the Constitution, which makes our right to strike absolute, and not the Labour Act,” Masvingwe said.
“We have given the notice at common law and in our view, a show cause order is not applicable. This strike, if started, will pursue until the case reaches its finality. Sections 104 to 107 of the Labour Act have been made redundant in light of the provisions of the new Constitution.”
Masvingwe said any attempt by the employers to invoke the said sections of the Labour Act would be ultra vires the Constitution.
“I am warning the employers that this is not going to be a tea-party. It is going to be the mother of all strikes that we have had and everything will ground to a halt. They cannot continue to take workers for a ride,” he said.
Masvingwe said the employers were back-tracking on collective bargaining after both parties had already set the ground rules and were shifting goal posts.
“At some point, they were saying they were unable to proceed with collective bargaining because they lacked the mandate as they did not have boards of directors, but as unions, we contended that was invalid as they were legal personae who could continue with business in the absence of the boards,” he said.
Efforts to get comment from Zesa spokesperson Fullard Gwasira were fruitless as his mobile number went unanswered, while his personal assistant Angeline Chigariro said her boss would call back, which he never did until the time of going to print last night.
Zesa assistant spokesperson Shepherd Mandizvidza was said to be out of office.