4 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Govt Sets New Stop Order Rules

GOVERNMENT will freeze civil servants unions' membership beginning January next year if they do not comply with stringent measures set by the employer to protect workers from unsanctioned monthly deductions.

The unions were, for the first time, ordered to reapply for the renewal of their deduction facilities and were given up to December 31 to regularise their operations.

They were directed to refund members their contributions in the event that they cease membership without benefiting from the organisations.

Some unions have been accused of abusing the deduction facility by taking money from civil servants' salaries without their consent.

Most unions deduct between US$8 and US$15 from each employee every month and some of them collect over US$300 000.

"We have noted with concern that some organisations are abusing the deduction facility allocated to them," read part of the letter signed by Salary Service Bureau paymaster, Mr Brighton Chiuzingo.

"This has inconvenienced some civil servants and in some cases people have lost their money. To enable us to monitor organisations which are committed to serving civil servants, we will be closing the deduction as at December 31, 2012.

"Unless the facility is renewed, we will not accept any new deductions from January 2013."

The unions were also directed to quantify the expected coverage of Government employees for the service they have offered this year and that they expect to offer next year.

"Provide undertaking that updates of stop orders will be effected through electronic data exchange media including cessations," the letter stated.

"Provide written assurance that deductions will only be processed by yourself where a stop order form has been duly signed by the State employee and that signed stop orders shall be retained by yourself and shall be available for inspection when the need arises."

Zimta chief executive Mr Sifiso Ndlovu said the regulations would weed out bogus organisations that have been fleecing civil servants.

"This is a welcome development that will clean the payroll of dubious deductions made by other unions.

"There is a need to protect the workers' income and this is the way to go."

However, other union leaders dismissed the Government move as "intrusive".

"Their regulations are an intrusion into the operations of civil servants' unions," said College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe president, Mr David Dzatsunga.

"Their move has an effect of weakening the capacity of unions to mobilise membership. There is the need for the unions to engage the SSB."

Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe chief executive, Mr Manuel Nyawo, said the SSB had no right to terminate contracts members would have entered into with their unions.

"This is shocking news because they gave us the deduction codes that we are using after verifying everything and we see no reason for reapplying," he said.

"Their move shows that they unilaterally cancelled our contracts with our members without our consent and there is no reason at law why they should do this."

Mr Nyawo added: "As for giving members back their contributions, we are not a bank that keeps depositors' funds."

Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Mr Raymond Majongwe said Government had failed to act in good faith on the issue.

"We are not sure what the move is meant to achieve. We do not want to suspect any sinister move. We are hoping that Government is strengthening its checks and balances on its system. We can not refund workers who cease membership because the money they pay is used for a lot of things that benefit them."

Civil servants have in the past accused the unions of not giving them value for their money.

In the past, subscriptions were used to cover legal representation, funeral expenses and soft loans. These services have disappeared at some of the unions.

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