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ZCTU reports govt to ILO

by Staff Reporter
03 Jun 2016 at 06:43hrs | Views
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has filed aT complaint with the International Labour Organisation ( ILO) to intervene in the pay dispute between the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and its 6,000 workers who are on strike
over non-payment of salaries for over 15 months.

The ZCTU wants the ILO to intervene in talks with government, which wholly owns the parastatal to pay the salaries.

In a letter to the ILO last month, ZCTU told ILO that the crisis at NRZ was caused by "misplaced priorities (and) both government and management incompetence to turn around the parastatal."

"We are kindly seeking for your office's intervention by engaging our government to ensure that these workers are paid their full wages for the entire period they are owed and that the government must ensure that none of the workers on strike are subjected to victimisation, disciplinary action or dismissal for a legitimate action which the government invited or caused."

"The government must not invoke its law to deal with the striking workers which law is inconsistent wi th the Cons t i tut ion of Zimbabwe and principles of  Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948 (No. 87) to which it is a party. The government must also ensure that trade union subscriptions are remitted to allow these organisations to function properly," said the ZCTU secretary general, Japhet Moyo in a letter to ILO.

NRZ workers went on strike on March 29, say NRZ owes a total $87,5 million in unpaid salaries from January 2015 to March this year. Workers have rejected an offer by NRZ to pay part of their salaries for January this year, prompting the company to file for a show cause order to declare the action illegal.

"The dispute is of nonpayment of wages for the period January 2015 to March 2016, a period of 15 months. The company owes about $87,5 million in salary arrears. On 29 March 2016 the workers engaged on a strike to force the employer to pay their salaries which are overdue."

"This failure to pay salaries has also affected the trade unions in terms of subscriptions not remitted to the unions. The unions are now incapacitated to conduct their activities. Following the strike, management have invoked the law by approaching the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare to issue a show cause order whose effect is to terminate a legitimate strike and may have
consequences of dismissing employees who have a legitimate cause," said Moyo.

Moyo requested the ILO to approach government and demand full payment of salaries to NRZ workers saying the ILO must also demand that workers do not become victimised for undertaking the industrial action.

"The government must not invoke its law to deal with the striking workers, which law is inconsistent with the Constitution of Zimbabwe and principles of freedom of association and protection of the rights to organise, to which it is a party. The
government must also ensure trade union subscriptions are remitted to allow these organisations to function properly," Moyo said.

Recently, the company paid workers in grades A1-B2 80 pe r c ent of their January 2015wages and those in B3- C2 were paid between $17S.00- $300-00 for January 2015. The company owes about $82 million dollars in salary arrears.
The Government is alleging that the NRZ is facing viability challenges but we are of the view that the problem is of misplaced priorities and of both government and management incompetence to turn around the parastatal.

On 29 March 2016 the workers engaged on strike to force the employer to pay their salaries which are overdue. This failure to pay salaries has also affected the trade unions in terms of subscriptions not remitted to the unions. The Unions are now incapacitated to conduct their activities.

 Following the strike , management have invoked the law by approaching the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Prisca Mupfumira to issue a show cause order whose effect is to terminate a legitimate strike and may have consequences of dismissing employees who have a legitimate cause.

The NRZ dragged its workers to court for refusing to return to work even after an ultimatum from the minister of labour. Mupfumira had ordered the disgruntled NRZ employees to return to work pending the determination of the matter.

In its application the NRZ management said the strike was illegal arguing that the workers had failed to give the mandatory 14 days' notice of intention to engage in collective job action.

In their heads of arguments, the workers, represented by Munyaradzi Gwisai, said the collective job action was a spontaneous action in response to an immediate occupational hazard which was a threat to their safety, health and human dignity. They also argued that the strike was guaranteed under section 65 (3) of the constitution.

"It's only through such action that the workers' fundamental rights under the Labour Act and their basic human rights under the constitution may be defended. The workers therefore aver that their actions are lawful and within the parameters of the Labour Act and in terms of the constitution," argued Gwisai.

He said cited conditions created by NRZ management's failure to pay its workers as well as the continued use of obsolete equipment for its day-to-day operations created an occupational hazard which does not require workers to give notice to strike.

"The employer's actions have reduced workers to beggars and destitute and resulted in hunger, mental stress and making it impossible for them to physically and mentally carry out their jobs.


Source - The Worker

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