Council Officials Set To Take Advantage Of Court Ruling
12 May 2019
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Mr Christopher Dube

State Media|BULAWAYO Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube and senior workers who fall under the council “executive group” have had a cap on their salaries and allowances removed, a move that will see their perks reviewed upwards despite them previously insisting that the local authority’s finances are in the red.

This could also put them at loggerheads with their workers who they have agreed to award a salary adjustment of not more than 15 percent.

The move by the executive group comes after a Labour Court ruling indicating that the move by the Government to cap their salaries was illegal.

The Government had through the then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Engineer George Mlilo given a directive to cap the salaries and allowances after noting the exorbitant figures the council top officials were awarding themselves.

The executive group, includes Mr Dube, the chamber secretary, Mrs Sikhangele Zhou, the four heads of departments (Finance, Housing and Community Services, Engineering Services and Human Capital) and their deputies.

According to a council confidential report the executive group, this month implored council to implement the Labour Court ruling, which was passed by the labour officer; Ms Caroline Muchunga on 29 November 2016.

Eng Mlilo’s directive had reduced the executive group’s salaries and allowances by between 24 and 27 percent.

“The acting human capital director explained that members of the executive group agreed that because of their fiduciary status in the governance of council, they did not expect any backdating or any payment arrears, but expected the effective date to be the date of the council decision (03 April 2019).

“He also expressed that the executive group is agreed that the implementation of the council decision should await the process of crafting and adoption of the supplementary budget,” reads part of the minutes.

In deliberating the matter, councillors while endorsing the move as this was a court judgement, felt there was a need for the executive group to commit in writing that they would not in future demand back pays so as to avoid possible litigation.

“The acting human capital director, in response, explained that since this whole deliberation was being minuted in detail, it will be difficult for the executive group to backtrack on its agreement especially with a clear record in the form of minutes.

“Besides, the decision to forego salary adjustment arrears was voluntarily brought up by the executive group itself and in that regard, it would not betray its own principle,” read part of the minutes.

A couple of years ago the “executive group” was under the spotlight after they managed to have their previous vehicle loan balances reduced and cut off with the senior officials utilising their leave days to pay off the balances. They further got new top-of-the-range vehicles as part of their conditions of service.

Meanwhile, councillors on Wednesday passed a resolution granting the same executive group authority to engage with their workers for a salary review of not more than 15 percent across board.

This means if this negotiation goes through not only will the executive group get a removal of their salaries and allowances cap but they will also get the 15 percent salary adjustment while the ordinary workers will just get the 15 percent salary review.

According to a confidential report the Zimbabwe Urban Councils’ Workers Union (Bulawayo branch) had brought to council a position paper on salary review negotiations in October last year but council failed to deliberate on the matter.

Further, the union had approached the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare which had advised at conciliation that the permanent negotiating committee must sit and consider the situation of the council workers.

“Clr Silas Chigora advised that council was dealing with a very sensitive issue (of salaries) and therefore carefulness was required. He explained that already the perception outside was that council employees’ salaries were too high.

“The acting town clerk (Mrs Sikhangele Zhou) explained that there was need to look at the reality than pay attention to people’s perceptions. She explained that at entry point, that is, grade one notch one, the basic salary was pegged at $180, and said by whatever measures this cannot be said to be too high,” reads part of the minutes.

Mrs Zhou, according to the minutes, further revealed that the National Employment Council (NEC) for the agricultural sector had reviewed the salaries of its workers and the lowest paid farm worker was now paid a minimum basic wage of $289.

At the end of the deliberations it was agreed that management engages the union to collectively bargain a salary review of not more than 15 percent and that the effective date be 1 May 2019.

Council has in the past faced a number of financial problems and at one point the local authority almost went bankrupt after 90 percent revenue collected went to workers’ salaries with just 10 percent being directed to service delivery which was against the Government stipulated ratio of 70 percent service delivery to 30 percent salaries.