The Zambia United Local Authorities Workers’ Union (ZULAWU) has declared a conflict of dismissal dispute, condemning the manner in which 39 National Housing Authority (NHA) workers were dismissed for riotous behavior, saying management conducted themselves in a cruel manner.

And Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary general Cosmas Mukuka says it is crooked for NHA management to dismiss the workers.

Speaking when ZULAWU presented a petition to ZCTU on the dismissal of the 39 NHA workers, ZULAWU president Kingsley Zulu said the reason they were declaring a conflict of dismissal was that NHA acted in a cruel manner when handling the dismissal of the employees.

“SG, among the members gathered here today are amongst the 60 employees that were suspended by the National Housing Authority; out of those 60, 39 have since been dismissed by the NHA. We assemble here today with very sad faces, our hearts are heavy because management of NHA has been very ruthless. In short, they have been very cruel in the manner they handled the issue of our 39 dismissed employees,” Zulu said at ZCTU’s head office in Lusaka’s Nyumba Yanga area, Monday.

“The genesis of the matter, SG, as you may be aware is that our members had gone for more than 14 months without a salary and management kept on promising them that those 14 months will be liquidated, a thing that never happened. That compelled our members to gather at the offices to follow-up on the promises that management were making so that they can get their salaries. But unfortunately, SG, we have an evil and heartless management who, at the end of the day, turned round instead of paying the 14 months’ arrears that were being owed to our members; they served them with letters of suspension.”

He said the sudden dismissal was a scheme by NHA management to deliberately disadvantage their members.

“The sad part of the whole affair [is that] procedure in this matter was never followed. You may wish to know that NHA had embarked on a process of restructuring. As a union, we had agreed to the process because we made consultations with government. But the sudden change of affairs, the shifting position by management to suddenly suspend and dismiss our members for merely protesting the non-payment of salaries is what has baffled us as union,” complained Zulu.

“We feel justice must prevail because we see it as a scheme to deliberately try to disadvantage our members. Instead of paying them redundancy packages, they want to find a cheaper way of trying to get rid of our members so that they go away with no package at all, hence our assembly here is to seek the immediate intervention, if Congress can ensure that justice is prevailed and that our members are paid that which is due to them.”

And Mukuka said some people managing government institutions are crooked.

“Meetings were held with the former Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development, Honorable Chitotela (Ronald); it was resolved that the company should undergo restructuring and by undergoing restructuring, they needed to retrench the people. Retrenchment package comes like a pension that what was agreed and the Minister adhered to that effect,” Mukuka recalled.

“So, after they agreed about the retrenchment, management went back to say ‘retrenchment, we shall spend a lot of money’, have you seen how crooked people in these positions are? The people you call managers are very crooked! They realized that the budget for retrenchment is going to be very big so ‘what cheaper way can we use in order to save money for the company and in order not to borrow?’ They said ‘now, let us pay the 14 months’ salaries, after we have paid, we even charge them!”

He also accused NHA management of being selfish.

“This situation is serious! It is excruciating! We plead with you that you follow the steps now of handling this grievance because we have uncovered the scam, the tricks of selfish people have been uncovered! They negotiated for restructuring and retrenchment, that is what is there. Restructuring was negotiated, then the cheaper way was to say how many people are these 60, from 60 I am told they have picked 21, according to the stories and brought them back so that they start driving the will of the company,” Mukuka said.

“From restructuring to charging, there is no thinking here! Restructuring to discipline, it is a crooked way of doing things, not so? That is what makes us to be puzzled. In labour studies, this is what we call constructive defenestration, which should be fought. We cannot allow that from our own Zambian company.”

He thanked ZULAWU for declaring the dispute against NHA management.

“And I am happy that you have declared a dispute to this effect…These are matters that can straight away go to court. The reconciliation process takes 30 days of which I am informed they have appointed a conciliator on their side; conciliation process takes 30 days; they have given us a copy of that letter where they have declared a dispute,” said Mukuka.

“The conciliator will hear the matter for 30 days. If the conciliator fails to reach an agreement, then the matter will reach the courts of law. Let us have hope that the new Minister (Vincent Mwale) can reverse the action taken by NHA management. We still have hope because you have a good case. Crookedness of managers ya mfwiti mfwiti (witches), they can kill people with depression, isn’t it? I have been told that someone already died of depression! This is a good case; even someone with malaria can see that this is a good case.”