Is lit­i­gat­ing over salary ar­rears an op­tion?

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Busi­ness -

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: strat­waysmail@ya­ Or cell No: 0772 375 235

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