CUTHBERT Razawo was employed by Chitungwiza Town Council and has just lost his job. His contract of employment was cancelled last week on three months’ notice, even after the Labour Amendment Bill which outlaws such terminations had already been signed into law by President Robert Mugabe.
Razawo is one of the 288 employees who have been fired from the town council. The dismissals are being contested by the workers who tabled their issue before Labour minister Prisca Mupfumira for conciliation.
Razawo is already owed over 10 months in outstanding wages and now faces the grim future of being a family man without a job.
His colleagues last week besieged Chitungwiza council headquarters demanding their outstanding salaries in full.
Chitungwiza council is said to have targeted to fire 647 workers, which translates to over half of its staff.
The affected employees, who have been picketing at the council offices almost on a daily basis, demanded that they be immediately reinstated or given reasonable packages as dictated by the law.
Zimbabwe Urban Councils Workers Union (ZUCWU), which has been speaking on behalf of the workers, said it had met with
the Labour minister and made representations over the illegal move by council.
“We are now going for conciliation after making representations to the minister on Wednesday over the illegal firing of our members in Chitungwiza,” ZUCWU secretary general Moses Mahlangu said.
A worker who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the dismissals were tantamount to death sentences. He said most of his colleagues did not own houses and had school-going children who were likely to be forced to drop out of school.
“I have three school-going children who depend on my income for fees, food and shelter and now I have to sit at home waiting for council to pay me my dues as and when they want. There is no other way of sentencing a man to death
than this,” he said.
Mayor Philip Mutoti said while his heart bled and he felt the pain of having to preside over the firing of workers, condemning them to poverty, council had no choice because it was over-staffed.
He said Chitungwiza’s monthly salary bill was $1,5 million, yet their income was only $800 000, leaving the local authority in the red before they can even engage in service delivery.
“We have 1 200 workers whose salary bill is $1,5 million, yet we are only collecting $800 000 per month. This is before we even talk of service delivery. While the workers cry foul, those paying their bills are also unhappy because we are unable to provide any basic services. We had to craft a situation where we reduced our wage bill so as to improve service delivery,” Mutoti said.
The mayor also blamed the town clerk for the legal glitch his local authority found itself in after firing workers using the common law position at a time it had been outlawed.
“You have to ask him why it took him that long to effect council resolutions which were made in February, and he implemented them late when the Labour Act had already been amended,” he said. Mahlangu said most of his members
had lost weight in a few days because of stress owing to job losses.