11 July 2012

Zimbabwe: Tomana Warns ZESA Workers On Sabotage

DELIBERATELY switching off electricity is tantamount to sabotage and attracts a heavy penalty, Attorney General Mr Johannes Tomana has said.

In an interview yesterday, Mr Tomana said anyone who intentionally sabotages the economy would be prosecuted.

His remarks come in the wake of threats by Zesa Holdings workers that they will switch off Zimbabwe if management fails to honour a salary award the employees won during a voluntary arbitration process this year.

Zesa management is refusing to honour an agreement it made with the more than 7 000 workers citing a "precarious financial position".

Said Mr Tomana: "The workers want to get what they want through sabotage. Sabotage is a word that speaks a crime and anybody who violates a law that protects the country and its economy would face a heavy penalty.

"It is common knowledge that if they switch off electricity we lose a lot of money as a country and also remember social facilities that use electricity such as hospitals.

"It means the country will be negatively affected and therefore the state will have a case against the saboteur."

Mr Tomana urged Zesa staff to stick to human resources issues "solve them amicably and not hold the nation at ransom".

"The workers might have a case but they should be civilised and management should solve the issue without disturbing the whole country.

"The workers should also know that they are part of this country and the economic struggle that has been taking place also involves them.

"They are not an island entity of this country but players who should take responsibility," he said.

The workers are demanding US$275 for the lowest paid employee up from US$190.

Zimbabwe Energy Workers Union president, Mrs Angeline Chitambo, yesterday insisted they would go ahead with their industrial action if their demands were not met."We are not going to rest until management shows seriousness.

"We have suffered for long and we should get what we deserve," he said.

A senior Zesa official who declined to be named yesterday said salary demands by the workers would push the monthly wage bill from 18 percent of revenue to over 52 percent.

"Current demands will put the lowest paid worker, who is a sweeper, at US$650 per month, which is outlandish.

"This scenario will greatly affect service delivery. Salaries can only be paid if there is an immediate increase in tariff to support the payroll," the source said.

Zesa spokesperson, Mr Fullard Gwasira, yesterday said: "We do not discuss welfare issues in the media.

"We have clear structures of engaging staff but all I can say is we engage staff to install, maintain and repair equipment, not to vandalise it. Vandalism is a crime."

The workers are also calling for the ouster of chief executive Engineer Josh Chifamba whom they accuse of being "out of touch" with Zesa programmes.

Zesa management and the workers entered into salary negotiations in December last year that culminated into a signed Collective Bargaining Agreement on January this year.

This came out after the intervention of Energy and Power Development Minister Elton Mangoma.

However, management refused to honour the agreement before the two parties went for a voluntary arbitration process, which came out in favour of the workers.

The management promised to pay the workers but last Friday Eng Chifamba wrote to the employees informing them that it was impossible to pay them because the company was in a dire financial situation.

The company said it had approached the National Employment Council for an exemption.

The workers argue that it is impossible to apply for exemption at NEC because it is a lower board.

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