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MANZINI - The Eswatini Water Services Corporation (EWSC) and its workers are at each others’ throat over water benefit monies and the general public is likely to suffer.

The gist of the matter is that EWSC is disconnecting water supply for its workers who have outstanding water bills, yet there is an agreement that water should be a benefit to all employees.

The employees’ outstanding water bills are said to be ranging between E7 000 and E60 000 as some of them date back to 2014.
Well-placed sources within the corporation said the main concern of the workers was that they allegedly signed an agreement that employees within the water and sewer network were to get a free water benefit of up to 31 units per month.

They said this was the agreement that was effective until the 2013/14 financial year, when a consultant was roped in to do a salary review exercise.
They said during the salary review process, a proposal was made that the water benefit should benefit all workers, not only those who were on water network. According to the insiders, in the proposal, it was proposed that the water benefit should be converted to money, which would appear in their payslips just like housing allowances among other benefits.

“However, when the consultant made the recommendation, there was no emphasis that the water benefit money should appear separately in the workers’ payslips. In fact, the money was added into the basic salary of the workers, something which confused the employees,” the insiders said.


In fact, the insiders said the workers argued that they were not happy with this arrangement since they could not establish how much was added on their basic salary.
The source said the workers engaged the corporation several times about the matter but they failed to reach common ground. As a result, they said the matter was referred to the Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration Commission (CMAC).

Again, they said the two parties failed to reach an agreement at CMAC and the matter was referred back to the round table between the corporation and the Swaziland Water Services and Allied Workers Union (SWSAWU). They said the matter was still being discussed by the corporation and the workers’ union.
However, the insiders said to the surprise of the workers, while the union executive members were still negotiating with the employer, letters were written to employees that their water services would be disconnected for owed water bills.

“In as far as the workers are concerned; they do not owe any water bills because it is unclear if indeed the benefit in monetary terms was never fused into their payslip as per the proposal during the salary review. Again, the matter is still on the table, being discussed,” the insiders said.

On that note, insiders within SWSAWC confirmed the matter but said as a union, they were not allowed to discuss it with the media.
However, they mentioned that yesterday, the workers wanted to march to the EWSC headquarters in Ezulwini to have an audience with management. Their plan was that if they failed to get satisfactory answers, they would stage a sit-in until the matter was amicably resolved.


They said as a union, they intervened by calling regional meetings, which are scheduled for today, where the workers would give the executive a clear mandate.
“If they want to march to the headquarters, we will lead them and if they still want to stage the sit-in, we will coordinate,” the insiders within the union said.
 Meanwhile, EWSC Public Affairs and Customer Service Manager Nomahlubi Matiwane said the corporation was not aware of the intended march and sit-in.
She said the corporation’s engagement with social partners was governed by a recognition agreement, collective agreement and a relationship charter, where all parties engage on issues of concern.

On that note, she said the matter of the water benefit had been discussed over the years and interventions of external institutions have also been used, including CMAC and the national courts, where the matter was further distilled.
She added that the water benefit and other matters were discussed through their internal structures.

She said based on their agreements in the relationship charter, it would not be appropriate to give further details on the matter without sufficient consultation with their social partners. She added that this was because they have an agreement to operate internally with trust and in a transparent way.

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