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The struggle continues at Zesa

8 November, 2012IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Fernando Lopes visited Zimbabwe to give support to the Zimbabwean Energy Workers Union (Zewu) battling violations of worker and trade union rights at the state owned utility Zesa.

Lopes met with the Minister of Energy and the CEO of the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) to discuss ongoing labour rights violations at ZESA that suspended 135 workers on 17 July 2011 for allegedly threating to strike.

Whilst workers have been reinstated, three workers, facing the same charges as the rest, have been dismissed and have not been granted appeal hearings. Most of the workers that have returned to work, after being suspended for more than two months, have not received pay for their suspension period. 

Angeline Chitambo, ZEWU President and an IndustriALL Executive Committee member, has been dismissed by ZESA without a fair hearing. Another ZEWU leader, Dennis Mukote remains suspended. 

ZESA also continues to disregard an arbitration ruling, which entitles workers to a fair wage increase and is central to the current labour issues at ZESA. ZESA’s further challenge in court of the impartiality of the arbitrator is a transparent attempt to undermine the arbitration process in an attempt to nullify the wage increase that has been awarded to workers.

Lopes stressed that the violation of hard won worker and trade union rights would not be allowed to go unchallenged. He urged the Minister of Energy to intervene to ensure that the issues are resolved and warned both the Ministry and Zesa that if the issues were still ongoing at the time of the Executive Committee meeting in December, IndustriALL would rally up support to ramp up its campaign. 

Since the meetings, Zewu reports that there have been discussions between the Ministry and Zesa and that the union remains hopeful that the issues will be resolved. The union is waiting for a date set by Zesa to appeal the dismissal of Chitambo. It has been agreed that Makote’s case will be heard by an arbitrator. Zewu has also taken the matter of the 3 dismissed workers to the Ministry of Labour, citing unfair labour practice.

Whilst Zesa is still pursuing a high court challenge of the arbitration award, Zewu has laid criminal charges for contempt of court against Zesa managers for failing to apply the arbitration ruling.  

“It is going to end” says Assistant General Secretary Mbonisi Sibanda “but the journey ahead is still long, tough and very thorny”.