Harare Municipal Workers Mull Taking Council to Concourt Over 'Unfair' Retrenchments

Harare, April 19, 2014- City Council (HCC) is walking on a legal minefield by retrenching workers without following due process after it emerged workers’ representatives were mulling challenging the move at the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) for violating their rights.

But Harare councillor Wellington Chikombo, who chairs the human resources and general purposes committee, maintained that all was done above board and workers were happy with the development.

The local authority wanted to retire some 2 000 employees to reduce its salary bill and improve service delivery.

The Harare Municipal Workers’ Union (HMWU) and the Zimbabwe Urban Councils Workers’ Union (ZUCWU) have, however, condemned the move saying the local authority had failed to follow due process.

“Due process was not followed in retrenching the workers. We have advised the employer to follow the due process,” HMWU said in a statement:

 The union said employees had open-ended contracts which stated that they had to retire at 65 years of age. It said if the employer decided otherwise, they had to agree on a package for those who wanted to retire before they reached the age of 65 whilst the employees were still at work.

“But in this case, Harare went on to make a resolution on the issue without consulting the employee representatives in terms of the  Statutory Instrument (SI) 135 of 2012 on the agreed conditions of service,” the workers’ union said.

HMWU said it would be inhuman for HCC to treat “its long-serving and loyal workers who have stood by it during trying times with disdain”.

The union also said it was illegal to suspend representatives of workers like what happened to HMWU executives and departmental workers’ representatives.

“This in direct violation of the law in terms of the Labour Act (28.01) as read with the SI 131 of 2003 on the interference by the employer into the activities and administration of an employees’ organisation and also contravenes on social justice and democracy at the workplace,” the union added.

ZUCWU secretary-general, Moses Mahlangu said the action by the local authority would be challenged at the ConCourt as it was unconstitutional.

“Employment protection is strongly entrenched in both the Labour Act, Chapter 28; 01 and the Constitution,” Mahlangu said.

“The Labour Act disallows an employer to provide conditions of employment that fall short of specifications of the law or any agreement made under the same Act. It is also an unfair labour practice for the employer to refuse to comply with or implement any determination that is binding in terms of the Labour Act.”

Mahlangu said the Constitution granted every person the right to fair and safe practices and standards as well as being paid a fair and reasonable wage.

“In addition, it entitles every employee just, equitable and satisfactory conditions of work. The blatant abuse and humiliation of the affected workers by Harare City Council raises constitutional as well as fundamental human rights deficiencies that are challengeable at the ConCourt,” he added.