Employees should not shun the workers’ committee

Davies Ndumiso Sibanda

MANY workers do not value the role played by the workers’ committees at the workplace resulting in the workers committee signing agreements that are not representative of their interests.

The starting point is to recognise that the workers’ committee is a legal body empowered to negotiate binding collective bargaining agreements at works council. Agreements signed by the workers’ committee are binding for the entire working life of the workers unless varied are cancelled by the parties at works council.

Many workers complain that the workers’ committee does not fully represent their interests and at times the workers committee is viewed as a helpless body. The quality of the workers’ committee is as good as the workers it represents.

Many higher non-managerial grades of employees tend to stay outside the workers’ committee for various reasons. This includes the fact that some of them want to be managers one day and fear involvement with the workers’ committee might compromise their chances of promotion. Others see the workers’ committee as a place for rouble rousers who always want to fight the employer, while others argue that they are better off approaching the employer individually when they want something.

I have also come across cases of workers who saw precious members of the workers’ committee getting dismissed thus they are afraid of offering their services for fear of dismissal. The law in section 23 of the Labour Act Chapter 28:01 allows workers to form a workers’ committee, however the law provides for separation of managerial workers’ committees from non-managerial workers’ committees.

Each group of workers can form their own workers’ committee to engage the employer at separate works council. For the separation of managerial and non-managerial employees, we are guided by the definition of managerial employee given in the Labour Act, which reads “means an employee who by virtue of his contract of employment or of his seniority in an organisation, may be required or permitted to hire, transfer, promote, suspend, lay-off, dismiss, reward, discipline or adjudge the grievances of other employees.

Section 24 of the Labour Act Chapter 28:01 provides for the functions of the workers’ committee, which in summary is to represent employees before the employer on matters on employees’ rights and interests.

Given this role of the workers’ committee, every reasonable worker should support the institution of the workers’ committee ensuring it has a robust constitution and those appointed and elected into the workers’ committee should be men and women of substance so as to properly articulate workers’ rights and interests issues at workers council.

Managerial employees are generally in a worse position as many do not see the value of a managerial workers’ committee until their salaries and benefits have been reduced or they are taken through disciplinary hearing and are looking for representation. Some employers as well frustrate formation of managerial workers’ committees out of ignorance thus lose an opportunity to unleash into the business the collective energies of managerial employees.

When well used, a managerial workers’ committee can help unlock the collective energy of managerial employees and improve productivity, however, the employer must be prepared for robust discussion of issues.

In conclusion, for good labour relations to prevail where workers’ condition of service are good, grievances are handled promptly, discipline is handled fairly and there is continuous growth of individuals and the business. The workers’ committees must add value thus workers should participate and be led by quality leaders.

-Davies NdumisoSibanda can be contacted on:

Email: [email protected]

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