ZESA plans massive restructuring

Source: ZESA plans massive restructuring | The Financial Gazette April 27, 2017

THE Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) is carrying out a restructuring exercise that will see 1 700 workers becoming redundant as the parastatal realigns its business model.

Employees at the power utility told the Financial Gazette that last year, the entity initiated a restructuring exercise which has rendered a number of posts redundant.

They alleged that recently a new organogram was launched and positions for artisan assistants, drivers and lead artisans would be phased out.

National Energy Workers Union of Zimbabwe (NEWUZ) secretary general, Thomas Masvingwe, who is representing the workers on the pending job cuts, confirmed the development.

He pointed out that artisan assistants had been reduced from a ratio of two to one to the current one to one per every artisan. He said concerted efforts had been made to engage ZESA on the matter since last year, but no meaningful progress had been made.

NEWUZ has since written to the designated agent of the Energy National Employment Council to register displeasure over the exercise.

In their submissions, the workers allege that on June 26, 2016, ZESA Holdings wrote to them advising that no such exercise was going on and if they should adopt a restructuring exercise, it would do so in consultation with the employees and their representatives.

“Surprisingly, on the 3rd of April 2017, the claimant learnt through memos addressed to its members that the respondent was actually on the advanced stage of the restructuring exercise, which will result in the loss of 1 700 to 2 000 jobs. Despite the assurances made by the respondents, they have unilaterally proceeded with their unlawful exercise. Consequently a labour dispute has arisen wherein this tribunal is clothed with jurisdiction to urgently resolve the matter,” said the workers in the court papers.
Contacted for comment, ZESA Holdings public relations manager, Fullard Gwasira said that the company was not aware of the developments.

“The ZESA group is not embarking on a retrenchment exercise at the moment, and has not given any such notice as is required by the Labour Relations Act. The Labour Act clearly emphasises the need to consult staff before any retrenchment exercise is embarked on. As part of the process to align staff structures to the prevailing business model, the company regularly examines its manpower charts. This process identifies areas of over and under staffing. The company then subsequently aligns its staffing to the business strategy. This process may entail moving staff to new areas which would have been identified. For example, the advent of prepaid meters has negated the meter-reading function, and staff in these portfolios is being redeployed in line with the current strategy,” Gwasira said.

Masvingwe insisted that there was no room for redeployment because the new organisational charts do not contain new posts.

“In this instance, some posts have totally been rendered redundant and the few remaining have been trimmed implying that the organisation now needs fewer people than before,” he argued. “Further, a copy of the internal correspondence memo in our possession dated April 3, 2017 undersigned by ZETDC managing director, Julian Chinembiri, confirms that the restructuring exercise is on course,” he said.

The memo from the ZETDC said: “The exercise was done to respond to the needs of the current business environment. It was important to review the organisational charts following the introduction of prepayment meters, planned automation of processes, creation of new customer services sections and observation that the 2006 charts were redundant in some instances.

“To that end, employees are to be aligned to the new charts by May 31 2017. Consultations will be done and the whole process shall be managed in a transparent manner with minimum anxiety to staff. It is hoped that the exercise shall be viewed positively for the benefit of both employees and ZETDC business.”
On June 29, 2016, Masvingwe wrote to the ZESA Holdings chief executive officer, Joshua Chifamba, on the matter.

“Our instructions are that you and your group have embarked on far reaching restructuring exercises. The ramifications of these exercises are varied and many, but includes the loss of employment by some of our members. Our understanding of the law is that we need not only to be consulted, but also to participate in the process in order to effectively protect the rights and advance the interest of our members,” reads the letter.

On July 7, 2016 ZESA’s head of corporate affairs, Rufaro Pasipanodya, denied that there was any restructuring exercise taking place.

“We note that you make reference to a far reaching exercise that you say the company has embarked on. Regrettably, we are unaware of the exercises that you allude to. ZESA Holdings and its subsidiaries would, as a matter of course, advise all the representative unions of its intentions, if at all it reaches a decision to undertake exercises of such a nature,” Pasipanodya said.