GWERU CITY COUNCIL SUES ENTIRE WORKFORCE
Gweru Council workers temporarily withdrew their services yesterday to attend a court hearing following a decision by council to sue its entire workforce for going on strike last year over non-payment of salaries, among other alleged grievances.
The municipality has taken all its 2,087 employees to court seeking an order declaring the strike illegal, in a move that sources say may see some workers being fired.
About 700 employees stormed the Labour Court for yesterday's hearing. Street cleaners, nurses, cashiers, fire fighters, among others gathered at the court from as early as 8AM yesterday for the hearing.
Labour Court judge president, Custom Kachambwa heard the matter in chambers. Gweru workers committee chairman Simbarashe Paul Moyana who represented the workers in the matter, said they had asked for the hearing to be postponed to adequately prepare for the case.
Moyana said council through their lawyers Danziger and Partners served them with the papers late. "We argued that we were served with notice to attend court on Friday and therefore we did not have enough time to prepare our heads of argument," he said.
"The judge president granted the postponement to 5 February where we are coming to present our heads of argument,' he said.
In its submissions to the court, council argued that the workers collective job action was unlawful since the reasons for downing tools such as the non-payment of salaries, back pay and bonuses were not valid.
"In case the issue of non-payment of salaries and bonuses and back-pay is clearly a dispute of right and not interest. Issues of non-payment of salary and bonuses relate to an infringement of an already existing right and not the creation of fresh rights. The respondents could therefore not resort to collective job action," reads part of council submissions.
The municipality also argued that the decision to resort to a strike on the issue of protective clothing was not merited. "The respondents had an award in their favour which they could enforce and register with the relevant courts. They had a remedy and therefore resorting to collective job action was against the law," council said in court papers.
On the issue of alleged corruption on the part of councillors, the local authority said: "this was an issue outside the ambits of the labour forum and the respondents ought to have used the relevant channels to resolve this issue."