Is litigating over salary arrears an option?
What then should workers who are not getting their salaries on time do? There is no single solution to the challenge, however, consulting others helps as in many organisations, employers and workers have entered into varied models of win-win agreements.
For example, in one organisation workers work for three month in and three months out and others have agreed to work and be paid only when there is work and have been called to work. All these are a means to manage the wage bill and keep jobs with the hope that the business will recover and they all get normal jobs again.
There are, however, cases of workers who have become very militant and have resorted to useless energy sapping demonstrations against businesses, which are not capable of giving anything to the workers. In worse cases, such workers avoid the wise counsel of trade unions and use bogus labour consultants or bogus legal advisors who are after milking workers and by the time workers realise they have wasted money, it will be too late.
I recall a case of workers who hired a bogus “labour advisor” who promised he was going to get wage salary arrears for workers in no time. Workers were each made to pay $10 per month to fight the case. There were 350 workers giving the individual $3 500 a month. The workers ditched the trade union for the “labour advisor”.
After three months nothing had happened except leaving threats and name dropping where the political powerful were copied all correspondence but they never came to the aid of workers. It was only after some workers abandoned the “labour advisor” and asked the union to engage the employer at NEC that parties started to find each other. Today the business is on the road to recovery.
In conclusion, workers need to appreciate that the matter of salary arrears is an issue of national challenge and call for transparency and participation in the workplace to save jobs and help businesses recover. Suing the employer or going on collective job action or hiring bogus “labour advisors” or briefcase trade unionists who operate outside mainstream trade union territory is likely to leave worse off.
There are times when the law is dwarfed by the occasion and this is such an occasion where the issue of salary arrears is better dealt with through dialogue than litigation. Davies Ndumiso Sibanda can be contacted on: email: firstname.lastname@example.org Or cell No: 0772 375 235