12 June, 2013Zewu President Angeline Chitambo will appear at the labour court on Thursday in the ongoing battle to challenge her unfair dismissal by the state owned utility Zesa nearly a year ago.
In July last year, 135 electricity workers were suspended without pay and benefits on charges of a threatened strike when the, Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa), claimed that it could not afford to give workers the wage increase in the collective agreement reached in January 2012.
After a protracted battle in which Zesa attempted to use the suspensions as leverage to have the Zimbabwe Energy Workers Union (Zewu) abandon the collective agreement, all but three workers were reinstated by November last year.
Zesa has victimised these three remaining workers because they are union leaders. Dickson Nyika, a Zewu branch secretary has not been granted an appeal hearing by Zesa. The union secured an external arbitration process for Dennis Mukote, a national executive member of Zewu and the award is pending.
Angeline Chitambo, President of Zewu and IndustriALL Executive Committee Member is challenging her dismissal in the labour court. Chitambo was dismissed at a hearing that took place in her absence on allegations that Chitambo disclosed confidential information at a press conference damaging the image of the company.
The situation for workers has not improved for workers as Zesa has not implemented the collective bargaining agreement, despite an arbitration award instructing them to do so and a criminal court ruling that Zesa must comply with the agreement. Workers have still not received wage increases which entitled workers of the lowest pay grade to a wage increase from US$190 to US$275 in 2012.
“We need to continue to mobilise on this campaign because workers have still received nothing despite arbitration awards and court rulings,” says Mbonisi Sibanda, Acting General Secretary of Zewu. “This is serious beyond our issue with Zesa, showing that the rule of law does not prevail in Zimbabwe. Today this is against workers but tomorrow it may be against someone else, undermining much needed investor confidence in Zimbabwe.”
IndustriALL General Secretary, Jyrki Raina has appealed to the Zimbabwe Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai to urgently intervene and compel ZESA to reinstate Chitambo immediately. Raina also asked the Prime Minister to instruct ZESA to implement the collective bargaining agreement, engage with the union for renewed dialogue and to stop victimisation of union leadership.
“We will continue to support ZEWU and Angeline Chitambo until this matter is successfully resolved and would like to contribute to restoration of harmony and fairness,” said Raina.