ZEWU moves in to protect ZRA workers’ rights

Zimbabwe Energy Workers Union (ZEWU)

Background

The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), as one of our constituent companies, is a bi- national company whose core business is to manage the Zambezi River water body which supplies the Kariba Hydro Power Station with generation. By its nature, the ZRA falls under a dual jurisprudence of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Over the years the workers at ZRA have not enjoyed rights provided under the labour statutes of either of the contracting states and have expressed their concerns to ZEWU about that undesirable situation which they felt was prejudicial to their interests.

Restructuring of ZRA

In light of the above, ZEWU met with the Management of the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) at Kariba on 27 June 2017. The Management was represented by Mr. Peter Kapinga (Corporate Services Director), Ms. Ruth Chitika (Human Resources and Administration) and Mr. Brian Philemon (Legal Counsel).

The main purpose of the meeting, which was called at the behest of ZEWU, was for the union to challenge the Management’s unilateral approach to restructuring of the ZRA including the possibility of staff retrenchments.

ZEWU impressed on the ZRA Management that all workers in Zimbabwe, serve for those explicitly excluded by the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) 2013 and the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01),  had the right to participate in matters affecting them at the work place.

To that extent, ZEWU demanded that everything done hitherto, without the workers’ participation, be reversed and that ZRA engages workers through the Works Council to start afresh and jointly examine everything from the measures adopted to avoid retrenchment to the feasibility of adopting retrenchment as a cost management strategy.

At the end of the proceedings, the parties agreed to allow meetings of the Works Council, which would allow in comrade T. Zimi , the ZEWU NEC member, to sit in, in an advisory role to the Workers’ Committee, to be convened and deal with the restructuring process.

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

ZEWU was also able to meet, on the side lines of its meeting with the ZRA Management, with the Zambia Water and Sanitation, Engineering and Allied Workers’ Union (ZWASEAWU) on 28 June 2017. ZWASEAWU is the union that represents the Zambia side of workers of the ZRA.

The meeting was convened to allow the two unions to develop a Collective Bargaining Framework which would make it possible to have a one stop collective bargaining mechanism which would come out with uniform conditions of service for workers in the bi- national ZRA having taken note of the fact that workers’ conditions of service were hitherto being determined by the joint Council of Ministers which last did so in 2005.

ZEWU and ZWASEAWU had challenged the present set up as being against provisions of ILO Convention 98 which was ratified by both countries and accords all workers the Right to Organize and Collectively Bargain. Statutes from both countries also grant workers the right to bargain collectively.

At the end of the meeting, the two unions and ZRA Management came up with a draft MOU which outlines the terms of engagement as well as interface with the ZRA Management. The draft was adopted and will be presented to the Attorneys General (AG’s) of the two countries sometime in mid July 2017 for finalization and signing by the two unions as well as the ZRA Management.

Once the MOU has been signed, the parties would then move forward and develop a calendar of activities meant to give effect to negotiations to be conducted at rotated venues between Livingstone (Zambia) and Kariba (Zimbabwe).

The foregoing is a very important landmark in affording ZRA workers their freedoms and rights like any other workers in a progressive society.

SHINGA MUSHANDI, SHINGA !!

QINA SISEBENZI, QINA!!

P. CHENYIKA
EDUCATION AND TRAINING OFFICER

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