Salary dispute rocks Bulawayo

A BULAWAYO City Council company City of Kings, is embroiled in an over $1 million salary and back pay arrears dispute with 57 workers, who claim to have been underpaid since 2009 and have not received their salaries this year.

REPORT BY SILAS NKALA

City of Kings runs Umguza Nature Park, Mzilikazi Arts and Crafts Centre, Park Nursery and the Caravan Parkwhere the 57 are employed.

Workers claim that after the dollarisation of the economy in 2009, the company slashed their salaries without any consultations.

The employer reportedly owes them over $1 million backpay.

Employees are presently paid a minimum wage of $125 per month, in contravention to a works council agreement that the lowest paid worker should get a gross salary of $132 after transport and housing allowances have been factored in.

Represented by paralegal officer Mandla Sibanda workers took the issue for arbitration before an independent arbitrator Washington Chitima.
The company was represented by its general manager Moses Muntali.

The matter dragged on and Chitima on January 13 this year passed an award that they be paid backpay within four months as from March 1 to end of June this year.

“The notching system as applicable on January 1 2009 should be implemented from February 2009 to date,” reads the arbitration award. “If respondent is desirous to change the salary structure, this should be subject of negotiation at the works council.

“Salary differentials arrears that may arise from above should be paid to claimants by respondent over the period of four months effective from March 1 2013, that is June 30 2013. Any arrears not cleared by the June 30 shall accrue interest at the prescribed rate until of final payment.

An employee, who requested anonymity, said following the arbitration award the company had not paid the employees their backpay as indicated and even has failed to pay them their four months basic salary.

“We are owed a total of over $120 000 salary arrears for the past four months now and whenever we complain we are told the door is open,” the employee said.
“Instead of paying the back pay within the given period the employer is saying it is unable to do that but may pay it in 16 months starting in July this year.”

The workers claim the matter was once discussed by council, which approved that they be paid their money but the company management remained reluctant to pay them.

“We have a serious problem, we go to work on empty stomachs. We walk to work every day and nothing is being done to pay us our dues,” another worker said. “We ask the relevant authorities to intervene and solve our problems.”

When contacted for comment, Muntali said he had not heard of any complaints from workers about the issue.

“Who came to you?” he asked: “We sit with the workers at the works council to discuss these issues and there have been no complaints.

“Unless I really know that it is the workers who complained, I cannot comment on an issue raised by mysterious people.”

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