18 April, 2013The Zimbabwe Electricity Workers' Union (Zewu) scored a landmark victory against Zesa Holdings on 8 April after the court found that the company had contravened the Labour Act by not complying with the registered collective bargaining agreement.
Zesa, the electricity parastatal in Zimbabwe, had reneged on a collective bargaining agreement which compelled it to pay the lowest paid worker US$275 per month. As a result, Zewu took Zesa to a criminal court over the non-compliance. The state prosecutor argued that Zesa had deliberately refused to give workers their dues, saying the company had committed a crime by contravening the Labour Act.
The magistrate said in his ruling: “We have found Zesa guilty of non-compliance to the SI 50 (registration of the CBA) which compelled it to pay workers salaries increment for 2012. Facts against Zesa are overwhelming. When the CBA negotiations were being done in 2012, Zesa was part of the table and was fully aware of the creation of SI 50.With this and all other facts tabled before this honourable court, the state proved beyond reasonable doubt that ZESA is found guilty.”
The court ordered Zesa to pay a fine of US$400, comply with agreement and make restitution, requiring Zesa to pay workers US$60 million in salary arrears, failure of which property would be attached.
After the ruling there was jubilation among the 3,000 Zesa workers. Commenting on the ruling, Zewu President Angeline Chitambo said, “this serves as a great lesson to employers who are after overworking workers but underpay them…justice has prevailed over evil forces.”
Chitambo was unfairly dismissed last year by Zesa for allegedly inciting workers to embark on industrial action over the company’s non compliance with the bargaining agreement. Together with her union, ZEWU, she continues to fight for her reinstatement.