Gwanda workers strike


GWANDA Town Council workers went on strike yesterday protesting the local authority’s failure to pay them outstanding salaries for the past five months.


Council workers first went on strike in April, but returned to work after management signed an agreement undertaking to clear outstanding salaries by the end of this month. It has, however, failed to pay up saying it was “in distress and facing viability challenges”.

In a move that has further raised tensions between workers and management, acting Gwanda town clerk Priscilla Nkala on Tuesday wrote to Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Nicholas Goche asking him to urgently issue a show cause order against workers.

According to the Labour Act, the Labour minister has executive powers of issuing a show cause order that immediately halts any collective job action and refers the dispute for determination by a Labour Court judge.

If issued, striking workers would be forced to return to work until the matter is finalised by the courts.

“Our operations fall within the definition of essential services and therefore our employees cannot engage in industrial action as interruption of services will endanger the personal safety and health of residents. It is not in dispute that employees are owed outstanding wages and salaries,” Nkala wrote to Goche.

“Liquidity constraints have resulted in a market decline of revenue since residents are experiencing difficulties in servicing their accounts.

“Stemming from the local authority’s distressed position, urgent and immediate intervention from the ministry is sought that a show cause order be issued so that employees do not engage in an industrial action as the effects will plunge the municipality into serious dire straits.”

The council workers’ committee chairperson, who is also the Gwanda branch chair of the Zimbabwe Urban Councils Workers’ Union, Sipho Ndlovu, said Nkala’s move was a clear indication that the local authority cared less about their plight.

“We are only demanding that management honour its April agreement and pay us our salaries, but all they are worried about is threatening us and cowing us into silence,” he said.

“We have met them several times and they have told us there is no money yet they are buying new cars and employing more staff.

“They have tried to engage police to stop this strike, but we have embarked on a legal strike and we will wait to hear from the minister.”

He said most workers were now surviving on handouts and a lot of them had been targeted by debt collectors for failing to service debts.

Ndlovu said some marriages had broken down as a result of the non-payment of salaries.

Workers said council was suffering from a leadership crisis and indicated that they missed the leadership qualities of retired town clerk Gilbert Mlilo.

Gwanda deputy mayor Albert Ndlovu said council would only be in a position to comment about the strike today.