Harare Council, ex-employees showdown looms

Harare City Council is headed for a major showdown with at least 1 300 employees retrenched and retired in the past three months who are challenging the dismissal as illegal.
The council argues that the retrenchment and retiring of the workers was necessary in the bid to reduce the salaries bill.

Some of the employees argue they were retired despite not having reached the retirement age whilst others allege they were retrenched a few years before reaching the retirement age in a bid by council to short-change them from other benefits.

Harare Municipal Workers’ Union chairman Mr Cosmas Bungu said they had since engaged lawyers for legal recourse.

“Yes, we have forwarded papers to our lawyers because council has to justify the retrenchments as we feel they were not done procedurally,” he said.

“Firstly the retirement age for any employee is 65 years old. While SI 135 of the 2012 code of conduct states that a person can retire at 50, 55, 60 and 65, the workers who were below 65 were not given an option but just told to leave,” said Mr Bungu.

“Upon retirement, the workers were not awarded any lump sum money, but were quickly referred to the Local Authority Pension Fund where there is no money. Council has not been remitting funds to the pension fund.”

However, council says it retrenched the workers basing on the Urban Councils Act, but workers argue the Labour Act takes precedence.

“Council failed to realise that the Urban Councils Act does not apply to the contracts of these workers. According to the Labour Act, Chapter 28:01 takes precedence over any Act on labour issues,” added Mr Bungu.

“Also what the workers are also grieving about is that employees classified as grade one to four, which encompasses senior executives, were retrenched and received US$300 000 as packages. But from grades five to sixteen they were retired and need to deal with the pension fund which says it cannot pay anything since council was not remitting.”

Effort to get a comment from council was fruitless by the time of going to print.

Council has been sitting on a high wage bill estimated to be gobbling 70 percent of revenue.

In 2012, the Government directed all local authorities to ensure at least 70 percent of revenue generated goes towards service provision after realisation that employees were treating themselves to huge perks.

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