By Tichaona Sibanda
SW Radio Africa
2 July 2014
Workers from Chitungwiza council have resolved to go on an indefinite strike after going for close to a year without being paid.
On Wednesday some of the workers had already walked out, following a deadlock in negotiations with management. This resulted in households across St Mary’s not having their bins emptied.
Chitungwiza Mayor Phillip Mutoti told SW Radio Africa that while the workers have notified them of their intention to strike, they were busy in negotiations with them to avert industrial action.
‘We do not have money as council. We are owed $27 million by residents and we in turn owe the workers $10 million in salaries. We hope there will be an agreement to stop this strike,’ Mutoti said.
Arthur Taderera, director of the Chitungwiza Residents and Ratepayers Association, said it was not a surprise that the workers had decided to take this course of action.
‘These workers care for our town, clean our streets, keep our infrastructure safe, but they receive no salaries for all the good work they do.
‘They are mainly low-paid workers, stressed and demoralised, and they deserve better from their employers and from this government. This is a group of workers that has borne the brunt of a dysfunctional local authority,’ said Taderera.
He said residents boycotted paying their rates some time back because council has not been able to account for money it has raised from rates and other sources.
‘Obviously they will blame their woes on residents not paying their rates. The reality is that they have other sources of income but they don’t want to tell us how they use the money,’ explained Taderera.
He added: ‘Two things will have to happen to correct this. Council will have to engage residents and explain why they are so arrogant and agree to take questions on pertinent issues such turnaround plan, budget and service schedule.’
‘While it is not in our interest to boycott paying rates for the sake of boycotting, it will be foolhardy for us to pay for money that cannot be accounted for. Systems have to change,’ he said.
Reports say this has also created tension at the Chitungwiza Town Council offices and some senior female managers have been forced to work from home in fear of council workers.
Parliament heard on Tuesday some of the female workers have been assaulted by the workers, while chamber secretary Ms Priscilla Vengesai was at one time locked in her office and had to be rescued by the police.
Chitungwiza Town Clerk George Makunde made the remarks when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.