Harare City Council, employees at loggerheads over US$400 000 unpaid salaries

Debt ridden Harare City Council has been dragged to court over employees’ unpaid salaries and allowances   amounting to at least US$400 000 owed  to its workers stationed under the Department of Water.

This comes on the backdrop where the city fathers  borrowed money amounting to $USD 32 million as stated in the latest report by the Auditor General Mildred Chiri.

“The Harare Water Department employees decided to take the employer to court after all efforts to get paid proved fruitless. Initially the employer had proposed to offset the outstanding salaries by giving the affected employees residential stands, but since 2017, not even one employee was allocated a stand as per the council promise.

“As a result some employees took it up with the employer and approached the courts for redress,” said a source within the council.

The matter was heard at the Labour Court last week and City of Harare is being represented in the above matter by Kudakwashe Masiyenyama of Gambe Law Group.

In its response, the council acknowledged outstanding arrears in respect of employees’ salaries and bonus  for November 2015 but argued that a payment plan has been put in place to make good the owed amount.

 “Their lawyer admitted that they owe us our money in salaries and bonus but he argued that the employer has a payment plan to settle the arrears owed to the workers by way of staggering payments from grade 16 cascading downwards ,” added an insider.

The employees’ legal counsel identified only as  Mapiye  counter argued that the said Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed in 2012 and employees continued to receive their unreduced allowances until January 2017 when the employer, without any notice or consultation, suddenly reduced these allowances.

He argued that this therefore meant that   the reduction had nothing to do with the collective bargaining agreement but was just a unilateral ,unjustified and unlawful action by the employer.

Mapiye prayed for an order that the employees be paid their arrears in salaries and bonuses as well as their unlawfully reduced allowances with immediate effect.

The council represented by  Masiyenyama ,  submitted  that with regards to arrear of salaries and bonus, there was no need for the Court’s interference since the employer has a payment plan in place.

 On the reduced allowances, Masiyenyama prayed that the claim be dismissed because what the employer did was in terms of the law as provided for under section 16 of the Labour Act.

The matter was heard by J. Gweshe on June 27 2019 and she reserved her ruling and advised that it will be ready in three weeks .