GLOVES are off in the Harare City Council with workers taking legal action to press for the payment of $26 million they are owed in unpaid salaries, bonuses and allowances.
BY MOSES MATENGA/PHYLLIS MBANJE
The move was likely to cripple the broke local authority and impact negatively on the already compromised service delivery in the city.
The workers represented by Harare Municipal Workers Union chairman Cosmas Bungu and other union leaders instructed their lawyers J Mambara and Associates to make an urgent application to the High Court demanding their outstanding salaries.
According to the letter seen by NewsDay the matter is between Harare City Council and the workers union.
“We instruct you to do an urgent chamber application to the High Court to make City of Harare pay all the outstanding salaries and bonuses of our member in terms of S.I 135 of 2012 clause 14(2) which states that salaries shall be paid not later than the last business day before the twenty-eight of each month, and clause 31(1) which states that an employee who is in the Harare Municipality service on the first working day of December the previous year or after in any year shall if his/her service in the year is continuous be paid bonus at the same time he/she is paid his salary for the month of November the following year,” the letter reads.
The workers said net salaries for November 2014, December 2014 and January 2015 amounted to $20,1 million. They said bonuses for 2014 amounted to $4,2 million while outstanding back-pay for January to December 2013 stood at $2 million.
“Total amount due and claimable is $ 26 310 000. Your urgent action is highly welcome,” the letter reads.
Harare Council is faced with a crisis to deal with several issues including debtors. The city is owed
millions of dollars by residents, companies and other local authorities they supply water.
Another alternative for workers is engaging in a strike and if that route is taken, the capital will be chaotic.
But in a related incident and following threats by some employees to go on strike to press for payment of outstanding salaries and bonuses, the local authority said payment of 2014 bonuses has been completed.
Addressing a press conference on Thursday, human capital and public safety director Cainos Chingombe said council was now in the process of paying the November salaries.
“We have since paid up to grade 12 and we hope to complete paying all workers by the end of next week meaning we owe salaries for December and January 2015,” he said.
Chingombe, however, said they were investigating reports of purported sit-ins and disruption of services, but did not mention which departments.
“There are specific channels that have to be taken for one to be on industrial action. As employees they are aware of such channels,” he said.
Acknowledging economic hardships, Chingombe said the authority has not been spared by the challenges affecting all sectors of the economy.
On Wednesday, staff at Edith Opperman council clinic in Mbare downed tools pressing for payment of salaries owed them for the past three months.
Patients who were desperately in need of attention were turned away by the nurses who did not mince their words and told them that they had not been paid and could therefore not help them.
Council authorities however have since denied that there was a strike saying the staff was working as usual.
Last year a strike by Chitungwiza municipality workers crippled service delivery in the town with essential service providers causing panic to chronic patients and other residents in need of health care.