SOME 350 Mutare contract workers could be rendered jobless if the council management presses ahead with plans to trim its workforce to contain the unwieldy wage bill. The city council is struggling to pay its workers and management has proposed a staff cull to help address the problem.
However, impeccable sources privy to the goings on said the move was likely to further strain the fragile relationship between management and councillors who want the decision to be shelved for now. Council management is citing low revenue inflows against a high wage bill as their reason for the proposed retrenchment while councillors say the exercise would compromise service delivery and throw many people onto the streets.
The councillors also insist that the proposed retrenchment was discussed but never finalized. "We are surprised that on April 4, some workers were addressed about pending termination of their contracts," said a local councillor who declined to be named.
The councillor said they advised management to find an alternative solution to the crisis. Ward 19 councillor, Kudakwashe Chisango, said there was lack of will by council management to come up with an alternative solution to the problem.
"There is lack of will by the management to deal with this matter. Corruption is rampant in the council and this needs to be addressed," Chisango said during a recent meeting which was organised by Transparency International Zimbabwe.
Mutare mayor, Tatenda Nhemarare, confirmed the discussions but said a conclusion has yet to be reached. "The matter was discussed during a full council meeting but no decision was reached by both parties. We are yet to meet with the management to finalise the issue," said Nhemarare.
A contract worker only identified as Mawoyo said council management should reconsider its decision as retrenchment would reduce them to paupers. "We have families to feed. How are we going to survive if my contract is abruptly terminated? They should also consider our plight," said Mawoyo.
The local authority is struggling to foot its wage bill with workers having gone for months without salaries. In the run up to July 31 harmonised elections, Zanu PF secretary for Administration, Didymus Mutasa pledged to "sweet-talk" diamond mining firms into advancing a loan to the local authority to pay outstanding wages.
Mutasa said the help would only be provided on condition council workers voted for his Zanu PF party. To date, the pledge has yet to be fulfilled despite Zanu (PF) winning overwhelmingly in Manicaland province.