Dear comrades, it is that time of the year again, when I address you as the Union President and it is with humility and utmost respect that I salute you all in the name of ZEWU.
Firstly and foremost, we ought to give thanks and praises to the good Lord for having looked after us over the year. He so abundantly favored us with the gifts of love and good health.
We should also, with equal measure, spare a moment of silence in honour of our dear departed colleagues and for those of our comrades who lost their beloved ones over the course of the year. May their dear souls rest in eternal peace, and to those feeling under the weather, we wish them all a speedy recovery.
Comrades, just like 2015, this has been yet another very difficult year for us as the working class in our country. There has been no relenting from the economically induced crisis that continues to bedevil our macro-economic environment.
It is however heartening to realize that, despite this inimical operating environment that we continue to be under, you as our members, have once again remained resolute, focused and, above all, united around the workers’ cause. You have demonstrated unique allegiance and commitment to the union despite attempts by our detractors in the form of the agents of global capital (management) and yellow unions (which we all know) to sway you away from ZEWU and its cause.
It has been a historic year wherein your union executed a number of very critical tasks, all in the interest of ensuring ZEWU exits in perpetuity and remains the example of a democratic, transparent and ethical trade union. Some of the activities carried out by your union over the year are as outlined below:
The ZEWU 8th National Conference
This massive and watershed event was held at the Victoria Falls in January 2016 and was attended by representatives of our respective constituencies from across the country, officiated by the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Honourable P. Mupfumira and witnessed by guests from the local and international trade union community.
The grand occasion availed the union the opportunity to self- introspect, take stock of past events, share international experiences and, most importantly, reposition itself and brace to fight global capital and all its manifestations, that include but are not limited to the so-called restructuring and cost cutting measures.
The conference also came up with a set of resolutions which will define the union’s trajectory and elected a leadership team to steer the ZEWU ship for the next 5 years. The process was done in a transparent and democratic manner and symbolized ZEWU’s unpararelled professionalism and maturity.
Reconstitution of Branches
The union engaged in the process of reconstituting branches to align their tenures to that of the national structure that had been ushered into office by the 8th National Conference as per the dictates of the ZEWU Constitution.
Increased membership also saw a new branch, the Gokwe / Nembudziya Branch being formed.
New leaderships have now been put in place and training is under way to orient the leadership on their new roles as per the Constitution. The training pace has however been hamstrung by the lack of adequate financial resources due to, mainly, non-remittance of subscriptions by most employers.
Whilst the training is ongoing, to date, the following branches have been trained; Bulawayo, Gweru, Zvishavane, Gokwe (a newly formed branch), Kariba, Kwekwe and Munyati.
Leadership Training and Strategic Planning Workshops
A combined Leadership Training and Strategic Planning Workshop was held in Kadoma in April 2016. The main objectives of the workshop were to induct the newly elected national leadership into their roles and functions as well as to carry out an analysis of the union’s strengths against the challenges faced and to synthesize the 8th National Conference resolutions into strategic objectives with specific timeframes for execution.
The union’s Strategic Plan (2016 – 2021) which was overwhelmingly supported by all constituencies and structures of the union, was adopted by the Presidium and now forms the official blue print to guide ZEWU in the next 5 years.
Membership Education and Training
The union has continued to stretch the little available resources to ensure that the membership is trained in critical areas to deal with their welfare at their respective work stations. The main thrust over the year was to sensitize members on their rights as guided by section 65 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01), the Labour Amendment Act (No.5) 2015, and the most recent retrogressive enactment, the Special Economic Zones Act (Chapter 14:33). The education campaign which has targeted mainly Workers’ Committees and Branches has been at times jointly run in collaboration with IndustriALL.
The union also managed to second members for paralegal training through its partnership with the Zimbabwe Labour Centre and the graduates are now doing very well in representing members at disciplinary hearings as well as other legal assignments.
The Youth, Women and Organizers were also taken through targeted training in their respective roles within the union.
The union observed and participated in such important commemorations as International Women’s Day, May Day, Health and Safety Day, Youth Day alongside other progressive trade union and social movements but it is very unfotunate that the Decent Work Day was not commemorated this year.
IndustriALL Global Union Congress
As an affiliate, ZEWU was honoured by being invited to attend the IndusriALL Global Union Congress held in Brazil in October 2016. As your President, I was elected to the post of Co–Chairperson IndustriALL Sub-Saharan African Region and that, in my view, is an honour bestowed on the union rather than me personally. It is a vote of confidence and a clear sign of the recognition of ZEWU as a vibrant and progressive trade union organization.
The 4th National Women’s Conference
Another milestone accomplishment of the year was ZEWU’s successful holding of the 4th National Women’s Conference in October 2016 in the resort town of Kariba. The function was attended by women representatives drawn from the respective constituencies of ZEWU.
The Deputy Minister of Women Affairs and Gender Development Ms. Abigail Damasane was our guest speaker, the Deputy Minister of Energy and Power Development, Ms. Tsitsi. Muzenda and the Acting Registrar of the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare, Mrs. Simango, also graced the beautiful occasion.
There was also a strong presence of dignitaries as well as international guests who all added value to the function by sharing their respective views.
The Conference came up with very clear resolutions to guide the women aspirations over the next 5 years. It also emerged with a new and expanded leadership that will fully assert the interests of all members.
Comrades, as we see the year out, it is also critical that we share information as updates on matters within our respective companies;
There have been a number of developments at ZINWA over the year. The union has been primarily concerned with ensuring that the management at ZINWA commits itself to addressing the following;
- Salary back log
- Health and Safety Issues
- Code of Conduct
- 2014 bonuses
Formation of NEC for the Industry
In pursuance of the above, the union, together with the National Works Council on behalf of the members, filed a notice to engage in collective job action with the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.
A series of conciliation meetings were held at the Ministry culminating in the Special Works Council meetings of 18 October and 1 November 2016.
Comrades it is pleasing to report that the above process has yielded a positive outcome with the parties signing a comprehensive agreement on 2 November 2016 which will see most of the above cited concerns being addressed on agreed specifics and time frames. A detailed communiqué on these has been circulated to all. The Code of Conduct has also since been finalized by a team from ZEWU and the ZINWA legal department and now awaits ratification by the Works Council before registration by the Ministry.
The union has also been able to present some of the issues bedeviling the members to the Chief Executive Officer and the Board Chairperson, both of whom have been progressive in their responses.
I wish to thank all members from across the companies for their solidarity and support to the ZINWA employees over this long drawn struggle.
There has been another agreement signed for the 2017 salary and allowances at CPMZ. The negotiations were successfully concluded in the month of October.
Still pending however, are issues of the Code of Conduct, Job Evaluation and the Works Council Constitution. The union will work in conjunction with the Workers’ Committee to ensure progress on the remaining agenda.
Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA)
The major issue here was to do with the Code of Conduct. I am happy to report that a joint team from the ZERA Management and ZEWU, together with the ZERA Workers’ Committee met and debated on the draft Code. The team agreed on all provisions and the draft Code now awaits ratification by the Works Council before going to the Ministry for registration.
Environmental Management Agency (EMA)
The Code of Conduct for the Industry has been finalized with the involvement of ZEWU and it now awaits ratification by the Works Council before being sent for registration with the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Services.
The National Workers’ Committee was constituted but needs to operate with more cohesion and unity than it is right now.
The Collective Bargaining Negotiations are still to be finalized and it is hoped that more ground will be covered in due course so as to address the plight of the employees.
Zimbabwe River Authority (ZRA)
The union has assisted the Workers’ Committee to respond and challenge Management’s intention to introduce the so-called cost cutting measures and restructuring of the entity. The union is assisting the Workers’ Committee in coming up with a Constitution for the ZRA Works Council.
NEC Zimbabwe Energy Industry Companies
The union remains actively engaged with some issues cutting across the NEC Energy Industry Companies. The main issues and the updates thereof are as detailed hereunder:
2012 Collective Bargaining Agreement Impasse
It is, without doubt, one of our longest running disputes in the industry. As labour, we approached the High Court with an application for the statutory appointment of an arbitrator, given the employers’ reluctance to do so. Both parties have since filed their submissions and we await a set down (date) for the oral presentations. In essence all that is required is for the High Court to appoint the arbitrator for the quantification process to be finalized to facilitate enforcement of the 2012 CBA in its entirity.
2014 Collective Bargaining Negotiations
The parties have reached a deadlock which was sent to the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare for conciliation. The deadlock was reached with the union demanding a 15% across the board salary increase and the employers seeking to reduce salary levels by 3%.
Engagement on the 2015/16 Collective Bargaining Negotiations is subject to finalization of the 2104 deadlock.
Cost Cutting Measures and Reassignments
The union has been battling the repressive and exploitative tendencies within the industry whereby some managements, especially ZPC and ZETDC have been unilaterally varying working conditions through reassignment of duties and redeployments to new stations. There have also been increased cases of the management refusing to pay overtime worked by employees citing the clumsy and illegal COSSAD stipulations.
The union has challenged the above mentioned malpractices at the National Employment Council as a violation of the employees’ rights at the workplace. The matters will soon be heard at the NEC and will hopefully be resolved sooner rather than later. Most affected are members from the ZETDC in the Northern and Eastern regions where even the issue of paid and unpaid overtime is a burning matter
Excess Hours Dispute
The arbitrator finally handed down his decision which was dismissing our claim as being without merit. We have since applied for a review of the award given the fact that the arbitrator did not deal with the matter as per the terms of reference given by the Labour Court when it remitted the matter. We have accordingly also appealed against the entirety of the award. The matter is awaiting set down.
Fixed Term Contract Employees tenure of Employment
Negotiations to have the Fixed Term Contracts period of maturity to permanency, reached a deadlock after, as labour, we insisted that past service be taken into account in determining the duration given that most of our members have served for periods in excess of 36 months as fixed term contract employees. Employers maintained the argument that the period should be determined as being set from the date of agreement and there should be no retrospective effect.
The matter has since been referred to the Minister of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare, for her determination of the duration, as is prescribed by the Labour Amendment Act (No.5) of 2015. We have since filed our submissions to the Minister in support of our position.
The position is therefore that the current contracts shall continue to be renewed until the Minister’s determination of the appropriate period.
ZPC Kariba – Disposal of Houses Dispute
After the ZPC had appealed against the arbitral award giving employees the right to purchase former company houses as per the original agreement, the Labour Court set aside the award citing procedural irregularities in the manner the award had been arrived at. The dispute was then remitted for arbitration by a different arbitrator. The delay in finalization of the matter was due to the fact that arbitrators operating licenses were only renewed in October2016.
I am, however, glad to advise members that the dispute has now been allocated to arbitrator Honourable W.P. Mangwengwende whom we expect to soon request for submissions from the parties.
ZESA Pension Fund Issues
Some members have complained of not being paid the 1/3 Commutation of their Defined Benefit Scheme upon attaining the qualifying age of 55. The union has approached the Fund to establish the reasons. It is being attributed to some employers’ failure to fund the Actuarial Deficit at the Fund, resulting in it failing to discharge its obligations timely. As of now, the Fund is still only paying those who applied in 2013.
It is clear that the problem at the Fund can only be resolved by having the proper corporate governance in place. The Board of Trustees should have people who are sensitive to the plight of and are accountable to the members.
The ZESA Pension Fund Board is composed of Trustees who are voted into office, in their individual capacities. The Fund is currently going through election of members to the Board of Trustees.
Whilst the union is not eligible to field candidates to the Board of Trustees nor does it have the right to directly influence events thereat, it is counseling all eligible ZEWU members to participate and to vote in candidates whose commitment to the workers’ cause is tried, tested and is unwavering.
Formation Of A Trade Union Centre
Just to reflect a bit and as you already know, ZEWU, together with other eleven progressive trade unions, was expelled from ZCTU in 2011 after challenging undemocratic tendences towards congress especially the electoral process. As ZEWU, we consulted our structures which gave us the mandate to join the others and form a trade union centre. The concerned unions then formed the Trade Union Congress of Zimbabwe (TUCZ) whose notice to register which was gazetted on 4 November 2016 was unopposed and TUCZ was registered on 5 November 2016. There shall be a launch of the Centre in due course followed by formation of district, regional, women and youth structures throughout the country. I urge you all to participate in the process and ensure attainment of organizational objectives of TUCZ, particularly advancement of the interests of the working class. It is not a secret that the other current Labour Centres have failed the workers of Zimbabwe. We need to make a difference comrades and that can only be achieved through our combined efforts. Iwe neni tine basa! Wena lami silomsebenzi.
It is clear, dear members, from the foregoing updates, that we have travelled through a long and winding road over the past twelve months. I am however most grateful for your solid and unwavering support throughout that arduous journey. It is clear, that without your support, not much would have happened as the union’s power is within you, the members.
I am therefore, as we are blessed and move into 2017, imploring on your continued support as we work to overcome those remaining challenges such as the continued threat to job security posed by the Labour Amendment (No. 5) Act, 2015 and brace up to take on emerging ones e.g . the Special Economic Zones Act.
Let us remain responsible and do everything in moderation this festive season.
May the good Lord bless you and your families with abundant lives and a very prosperous 2017
Shinga mushandi. Shinga !
Qina sisebenzi. Qina!
A CHITAMBO (MRS)