New Zesa pledge angers workers

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The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) has torched a storm after directing its workers to recite an organisational culture change pledge.

ZETDC workers are required to turn up for work 15 minutes earlier in order to recite the pledge.Titled Culture Change Motto, the pledge reads: “I am ZETDC, change begins with me, I want to be an example of what I want my team to be.”

Apart from the pledge, employees are also required to familiarise themselves with two other documents titled Culture Blueprint and Business Behaviour Model, and Strategy Transformation People, respectively.

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ZETDC is a unit of power utility, ZESA Holdings. ZESA spokesman, Fullard Gwasira, told the Financial Gazette this week that ZETDC introduced the pledge to harness the participation of employees towards the realisation of improved service delivery to its valued consumers through enhancing teamwork, improved productivity and a harmonious industrial relations climate.

“The company pledge is a strategy that looks at the bigger picture and is meant to achieve productive utilisation of company assets and systems to the best advantage of consumers,” he said.

But ZETDC workers have taken great exception to the whole issue, alleging they were being treated like school going kids. They have since invited the National Energy Workers Union of Zimbabwe (NEWUZ) to take up the issue with ZESA.

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On March 6, NEWUZ secretary general, Thomas Masvingwe, wrote to Joshua Chifamba, the chief executive officer (CEO) of ZESA, asking him to urgently intervene in the matter.
“We have learnt that you now require our members to perform some pledges at the workplace according to some newly formulated dogmas and beliefs.

To our great shock, this was not part of their employment contracts, the conditions of service or any Collective Bargaining Agreement binding on the employees and your part. Be advised that this act constitutes a breach of our members constitutional right to freedom of conscience as well as a breach of the fundamental terms of their employment contracts,” partly reads the letter.

Masvingwe said the pledge was in violation of Section 60 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which provides that every person has the right to freedom of conscience, thought opinion and religion.

Section 60 (2) of the national charter provides that no person may be compelled to take an oath that is contrary to their religion or belief, whether in public or in private and whether alone or together with others.

“In light of the above provisions you are illegally compelling our members to perform/recite some pledges without according them their religious beliefs and practices first. We are therefore instructed to demand as we hereby do, that you cease with immediate effect to your unlawful action. We shall take legal steps to secure the rights of our members in the event that you persist with your unlawful actions,” warned Masvingwe.

NEWUZ is also raising concern over the fact that the employees were not being paid for the 15 minutes they were compelled to recite the pledge.
“We have learnt that you now require our members to report for work at 07:45am as opposed to 08:00am. This is despite the fact that the said members are required to knock off work the usual time.

“Consequently, the said members are now working for an additional 15 minutes on top of the lawful seven and a half hours being paid overtime. You are therefore in breach of Section 12 of Statutory Instrument 1 of 2008, making your action manifestly illegal.

In the circumstances, we hereby demand that you cease this illegal practice forthwith or pay them overtime worked from the time you embarked on this illegal action,” said Masvingwe in a separate letter to the ZESA CEO, dated March 7.

Gwasira said the majority of ZESA’s staff members were in full support of the new strategy and the code, which is designed to improve service delivery.

He said in any change process, there would always be employees who resist change and want to remain in the mode of yesteryear, a development which he said was expected and is being addressed.

Gwasira said the change strategy was being championed by volunteer team leaders and has been embraced by most employees in ZETDC.But NEW UZ disagrees. It says culture change should begin from the top.

“How can you target ordinary employees while avoiding the top members of management? Change at the entity begins by curbing corruption, embezzlement of funds through defective tender systems and adhering to the codes of ethical business practices,” argued Masvingwe

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