A BID by a group of nurses and other health workers to get a salary increase and outstanding dues amounting to $2,5 million from six rural district councils has hit a snag after the Labour Court ruled that their real employer was Government.
Hundreds of health staff operating at rural district council clinics and hospitals countrywide were employed by the local authorities but Government took over the disbursement of some monthly grants to the workers at the height of economic challenges in 2008.
Government insisted that it was only assisting with the payment of grants to the council workers in the essential services through the Salary Service Bureau but they remained
The payroll system for the workers in question was handed over to the SSB.
When the multi-currency system was introduced, the grant-aided workers realised that there was a Collective Bargaining Agreement between council employees and the local authorities that increased the others’ salaries.
In terms of that CBA, the least paid council employee was getting much more than what the nurses and other health professionals on the Government grant were now getting.
A dispute arose with the Zimbabwe Rural District Workers Union demanding an increase in the salaries from councils on behalf of the nurses and other health professionals.
Government, during the court proceedings, disowned the group of workers saying they remained council workers.
A fortnight ago, Labour Court judges Justices Euna Makamure, George Musariri and Bridget Chivizhe ruled that the workers were now civil servants and that the RDCs had no legal obligation to pay them.
Justice Musariri had this to say: “I have considered the facts and issues set out by the parties. My analysis leads me to the conclusion that the health staff were not council employees but civil servants…
The judge added that the four conditions attached to the salary grant by the Government proved that the State had indeed taken over employment of the health staff.
“The conditions show that the State pays the employees’ full salaries. The State underwrites their pension. The State determines the conditions of service and is working out performance advancement.
“The essential element on an employment contract is the rendering of personal service to an employer who pays for service and controls the conditions of service.
“Thus the State is the real employer though council appears as the employer,” Justice Musariri ruled.
Lawman Chimuriwo Attorneys instructed Advocate Thabani Mpofu to argue the matter while Warara and Associates acted for the RDCs.
The councils insisted that since Government was now involved in the payment of the medical staff, they were now civil servants and that their salaries and benefits had nothing to do with the local authorities.
However, Government, in a letter dated February 16 2010, distanced itself from the dispute saying the workers were still employees of the councils.
Health and Child Care secretary Dr Gerald Gwinji, said the workers in question remained on the salary structures of the rural district councils.
“Pursuant to my Ministry’s circular No 2 referenced 1/1/1 DC277 dated 12 May 2004, may you be advised that the staff under Rural District Councils still remain employees of, and on salary structures, of Rural District Councils.
“The grant support towards their salaries does not make them civil servants,” read the letter. herald