Sunday, 20 December 2020

CHAOS AS BYO COUNCIL WORKERS STAGE SIT IN PROTEST

People waiting at a clinic as nurses down tools

Bulawayo City Council workers staged a sit-in on Thursday and Friday protesting poor salaries and delays in payment of November salaries and bonus, a development that saw some people failing to access services at council clinics.

The workers who fall under the Zimbabwe Urban Councils Workers Union (ZUCWU) have accused council management of failing to address the issue of poor salaries.

Last month the workers demanded to be paid Covid-19 allowances and also asked management to increase their salaries which they said lagged far behind.

They threatened to down tools citing incapacitation unless their grievances were addressed urgently.

The least paid BCC worker earns a basic salary of $1 900. According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat), the latest Poverty Datum Line (PDL) for an average family of five stands at $17 244,07.

The sit-in on Thursday and Friday saw long winding queues at council clinics in a number of suburbs as people waited patiently hoping to be attended to by nurses.

It was only late after realising that the nurses were not working that people dispersed. The ZUCWU Bulawayo branch chairperson Mr Ambrose Sibindi yesterday confirmed that the council workers staged a two-day sit-in to protest against poor salaries.

He said what workers were being paid could hardly meet basics which was a confirmation that council was insensitive to the plight of its workers.

“The employer negotiates in bad faith and has grossly proved that in terms of priorities, workers’ salaries are at the bottom and we demand an immediate stop to that. Some workers are paid a basic salary of less than $2 000 when the PDL is around $20 000 a month. Most workers’ families cannot afford even basics because of these poor salaries,” he said.

Mr Sibindi said the industrial action was meant to push council management to pay the workers their salaries and bonus as agreed at the December 7 works council meeting.

He said council management was unilaterally changing agreements reached at works council meetings which was unfair labour practice.

Mr Sibindi said workers were resuming work today but urged council management to urgently address the workers’ grievances or risk another industrial action.

“The workers morale is very low as they are yet to be paid their November salaries and bonus,” said Mr Sibindi.

He said in the event of council management failing to meet its obligation of paying salaries and the bonus, the union will engage the workers on the way forward.

“There are several options to push the employer to address the workers’ grievances and what we are just saying for now is that management should urgently pay November salaries and bonus,” said Mr Sibindi.

He said now that Government has approved BCC’s $551 million supplementary budget which will see tariffs increasing by nearly 400 percent, there was no excuse for council to fail to review workers’ salaries upwards and also pay the bonus.

In a statement last week, council said the 2020 supplementary budget had been approved which results in charges going up by 372 percent.

The new charges will be reflected in the January 2021 bills. Bulawayo Town Clerk Christopher Dube yesterday said the industrial action by workers was illegal because proper procedures were not followed.

“It was a surprise to us and as far as we are concerned, the workers didn’t follow the procedures for an industrial action,” he said. Chronicle

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