BY BRENNA MATENDERE
AN ad-hoc committee has been appointed to look into the impasse between Gweru City Council workers and their employer.
The development comes hardly a week after the restive workers issued a notice to strike, but shelved it at the last minute after an assurance by the Josiah Makombe-led council that their grievances would be addressed within 14 days.
The workers want a reversal of salary cuts implemented in 2016 after a directive by then Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere.
The salary cuts were deemed null and void by the High Court.
The workers are also demanding reinstatement of the long service award package for those that go on retirement. However, the cash-strapped council has been dithering on fulfilling the demands.
Documents gleaned by Southern Eye indicate that an eight-member special committee has since been appointed to look into the stand-off and should report to a full council meeting before a decision is made.
The committee includes town clerk Elizabeth Gwatipedza, acting finance director Owen Masimba, chamber secretary Vakai Douglas Chikwekwe and legal expert Dzimba Jaravaza. Talks are still on-going to engage Sino-Zimbabwe Cement Company’s human resources manager, Victoria Hungwe.
Four councillors, led by finance committee chairperson Martin Chivhoko (Ward 4), are also part of the special committee.
Others are former trade unionist and ward 18 councillor John Manyundwa, Gedion Mugariri (ward 7) and Notal Dzika (ward 8).
Gweru Urban Council Workers’ chairperson Kudakwashe Munengiwa confirmed the development.
“What we want at the end of the day is industrial harmony. The workers are saying their salaries were illegally cut, but they went on to successfully challenge that development at the courts and won their case,” he said.
“However, about three years on, the employer has not implemented that court order so that is the crux of the matter. We wanted to down tools last week, but we gave dialogue a chance. We remain hopeful that this committee, which has been set up, will see reason and act likewise. If that fails, we are going on a full-blown strike.”
Council spokesperson Manford Gambiza said the committee’s mandate was to try and break the deadlock between the workers and their employer.
“The committee has already started its work and it will report to the next full council meeting. Discussions of this nature may take some time, but they will come to fruition,” he said.
Inside sources revealed that the Makombe-led pool of councillors was unwilling to approve implementation of the High Court order to retain previous salaries of workers because those occupying high posts at Town House would get increases of up to 120%, thereby blowing the wage bill to unsustainable levels and hinder service delivery.
“The councillors are being very careful. If they approve blanket reinstatement, it will mean that the highest paid person at council will start earning over $9 000, while from grade 8 to grade 16, workers will be getting more than 100% increases. On the other hand, lowly-ranked workers will have increments of just about 45% because when the salaries were cut, there was no uniform percentage that was used. The councillors are happy with reinstating salaries for lower grade workers, but they have serious reservations for the top brass, hence the impasse,” the source said.
Makombe declined to comment, saying it would jeopardise the ongoing negotiations.
Gwatipedza did not respond to questions sent to her.