12 December 2003

Zimbabwe: Striking Dustan Workers Sieze 12 Haulage Trucks

Harare — STRIKING Dunstan Transport workers on Wednesday confiscated the company's 12 haulage trucks and parked them at the Zanu-PF Headquarters in Harare after failing to reach an amicable solution with their employer over salaries and wages.

The employees, who downed tools early last month demanding better wages and working conditions, chanted Zanu-PF slogans and sang revolutionary songs.

Workers committee chairman Mr David Moyo said they earned between $8 000 and $40 000 a week and that these wages were not enough to sustain their families.

More than 100 workers have since Wednesday been converging at the Zanu-PF Headquarters.

Some said they should be given a chance to run the company, alleging that the owner, Mr William Rodney Dunstan, had failed.

On Tuesday, at least 310 Dunstan Transport employees were suspended indefinitely after they had gone on a two-week strike.

The workers were suspended after the Labour Court ruled that their strike was illegal.

"We are not earning enough, considering the economic hardships that we are currently facing," said one of the employees on condition of anonymity.

He said since last year, workers had given Mr Dunstan proposals on the way forward, but he allegedly did not respond.

"We were only shocked to hear that we were suspended, yet we were only trying to negotiate with him," said another employee.

The workers alleged that Mr Dunstan's actions were politically motivated and that he was sabotaging the country.

Mr Moyo alleged that on Tuesday morning, Mr Dunstan gave a list of names to the security guards manning the premises.

"The names were of all the employees who were suspended and they wanted to make sure that no one would enter the premises," he said.

"And that is the reason why we had to drive the vehicles and park them at Zanu-PF offices."

He said workers had been going back to Dunstan Transport premises in a bid to obtain their terminal benefits.

"If he doesn't want us to work for him, he should give us our terminal benefits so that we can move on," said Mr Moyo.

A disposal order that was granted by the Labour Court on December 4 declared that the employees' actions were illegal and ordered them to return to work.

Dunstan Transport was therefore authorised to deduct 14 days of the unlawful collective job action from the respective employees' leave days.

"It is hereby ordered that the applicant be free to take whatever disciplinary action it deems necessary and appropriate in terms of the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01)," reads section 4 of the disposal order.

Mr Dunstan refused to comment on the issue, but the company's financial manager Mr Richard Geach said they wanted to complete the legal process and hold disciplinary hearings so that the company could move on.

"Basically our intention is to hold them (disciplinary hearings) as quickly as possible," he said.

He urged the employees to attend the disciplinary hearings.

In November, the employees spent two weeks camping at the company's premises in Harare after a deadlock with their employer on wage increments.

The workers had downed their tools and their employer had allegedly vanished and his whereabouts were not known.

This is not the first time that a dispute between an employer and employees has spilled to the Zanu-PF headquarters.

In March 2001, 24 commuter omnibus drivers employed by Leno Trading drove the buses to Zanu-PF Headquarters as they sought assistance from the party and war veterans after they had failed to reach an amicable solution with their employer.

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