ECONET under fire for workers’ rights abuse

In a shocking revelation that exposes billionaire Strive Masiiwa’s work ethic and alleged corporate bully mentality, his blue chip company,   Econet Group, is one of the several companies that are violating   labour laws and abusing workers’ rights in the country.

This was discovered in an investigation by Zim Morning Post after the release of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) global index which ranked Zimbabwe in the top 10 World’s Ten Worst Countries for Workers.

This publication discovered that two of the group’s subsidiaries Steward Bank and Econet Wireless do not have workers committees as stipulated by law.

This is a violation of Zimbabwe’s labour act and against International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards.

Employees from Econet Wireless do not have a workers’ committee since 2016 and Zim Morning Post heard that anyone that raises the issue risks getting their contracts not renewed among other methods of reprisal.

According to the Zimbabwe Bankers Workers Union (ZIBAWU) member Tirivanhu Marimo, Steward Bank victimized all the workers Committee representatives and  terminated their contracts basing the action on the using the infamous July 17 2015 Chidyausiku judgement .

Since then,  the bank does not have a workers’ committee which is a clear a violation of the Labour Act Chapter 23.

The investigation further discovered that Econet group terminated contracts for majority of permanent employees replacing them with casual labour to avoid paying severance packages to its former employees.

Marimo said  ZIBAWU  established that 85% of the workers at Steward Bank are casual workers.

The situation is that 85% of Steward bank workers are casual workers with contracts subject to renewal every 6 months or 2 years and this has been done to capitalize profits at the bank and avoid paying terminal benefits to employees,” he said.

A middle level manager at Econet Wireless said 80% of their workers where on fixed term contracts and the number of permanent employees has been declining since 2015 after the July 15 Chidyausiku judgement which saw mass firing of employees without notice.

One casual worker from Econet Wireless said fixed term contracts have reduced them to be bootlickers  and sycophants to enable the renewal of contracts.

What kind of company as big as ours that does not give you job security, we all have three or six months contracts which are renewed over and over again and this is frustrating. “Imagine I have been working here for the past two years but I renew my contract every six months, what pains me more is that the day they choose not to renew my contract that’s it, I will leave with no package at all.

“The whole system is a divide and rule tactic to cause disunity among workers, we sign different contracts in the same department.

Those that are employed through recruitment agents or commission based employee get even worse treatment,” lamented an employee who refused to be named in fear of reprisal.

Steward has not been hearing the union’s grievances and continue to give slavish contracts which threaten our survival as employees,” weighed in a Steward bank employee.

When Zim Morning Post spoke to Econet group spokesperson Fungai Mandivei about the employee rights abuses at Econet Group he expressed ignorance.

I cannot comment about that issue at the moment as I am not aware of such employee conditions, but what I can tell you is that Econet is a law abiding company which takes the issues of employee rights seriously I will look at the matter and get back to you,” he said but reneged on his promise.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) secretary general Japhet Moyo said Econet cleverly skirted labour lawS.
“Econet has what they call volunteers, but these are workers on either part-time or fixed-term contracts.
“Never have we experienced such exploitative methods than at such companies. How does some one volunteer to offer labour and wait for a thank you as when the employer wishes to pay? The idea is to circumvent our labour laws. They use their financial muscle to create their own unbearable industrial relations,” said Moyo.