Published On: Sun, Nov 20th, 2016

Ex-Steward bank employees unite against Strive Masiyiwa

 SWITZERLAND based Uni-Global Union has joined forces with the Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union (ZIBAWU) and they have jointly petitioned Strive Masiyiwa over the non-payment of terminal benefits to former Steward Bank employees.
The ex- employees allege that efforts made since last year to recover their dues were fruitless. In a last ditch bid to amplify their voices, the ex-employees have roped in Masiyiwa in his capacity as founder and executive chairman of Econet Wireless. The cellular communications company is the major shareholder in Steward Bank. The move by the employees is meant to pressure Masiyiwa to use his position to resolve the feud.

In solidarity with the aggrieved employees, Uni-Global union which coordinates trade unions from different sectors at an international level has committed to fight in ZIBAWU’s corner. To this end, the Swiss union has written to Masiyiwa condemning the bank’s conduct. In a letter dated August 23 2016 signed by Noomen Gharbi, Vice President of Uni-Global Union, Masiyiwa was urged to intervene urgently or risk facing the consequences.
“We are writing to protest against the continued unfair labour practices at Steward Bank that have been brought to our attention by ZIBAWU. We write to seek your offices intervention in order to stop Steward Bank’s actions which we deem oppressive and grossly unfair, “reads the letter in part.

The global trade union threatened to stage a demonstration at Masiyiwa’s United States residence in the event that he does not use his shareholding muscle on the matter.

ZIBAWU also wrote to the Econet boss pleading with him to come to their rescue. Documents gleaned by the Zimbabwe Newsday revealing communication made to Masiyiwa confirm the development. In a letter written by Japhet Moyo, in his capacity as representative of ZIBAWU mother union- the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the Econet boss is called to act. It is alleged that 44 former Steward Bank employees were illegally dismissed from work on the basis of the July 17 2015 Zuva Petroleum ruling.

They said that despite the fact that all other employers in the banking sector engaged ZIBAWU for guidance on compensating workers,Steward Bank had remained defiant and refused to compensate the ex-employees.They said that at one point they approached the Constitutional Court until circumstances forced them to withdraw their application having realised that the matter would a take long time to be concluded.

“We strongly urge you to immediately intervene and stop such practices by Steward Bank. We also hope that you will pay prompt attention to this very serious matter,” reads the letter in part.
Contacted for comment, Masiyiwa responded through his legal representative, Taona Nyamakura of Mtetwa and Nyambirai Legal Practitioners saying that the issues raised by the unions were illegitimate because the contracts of employment were legally terminated.

“The former employees challenged the termination in the Constitutional Court and they withdrew their application at their own volition without reference to our clients or to Steward Bank Limited. The withdrawal was a clear acknowledgment that the Constitutional Court application had no merit,” he said.

Nyamakura pointed out that although Steward Bank Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Limited, neither Masiyiwa nor Douglas Mboweni sits on the entity’s management board.

“The channels available for a shareholder to influence the decisions of its subsidiary are limited. Good principles of corporate governance demand that recourse should only be heard to those limited channels in exceptional circumstances and none of the facts that are being raised by the employees relate to operational issues.

“The complaints of the former employees, being operational in nature, do not warrant the intervention of our clients. Our clients having no legal obligation to act in this matter, have chosen to decline the offer by the petitioners to use their shareholding power in any manner other than as provided by law with the result that they remain neutral,” he said.

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