—-About 47 workers in division 4 at Itezhi Tezhi District Council have endured for 13 consecutive months without pay, with no hope that they will ever get paid due incapacity of the local authority to raise enough revenue.
Itezhi Tezhi District Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (DZCTU) Chairperson, Mukunda Moote, disclosed the development during a consultative meeting between Itezhi Tezhi DZCTU and Zambia United Local Authority Workers’ Union (ZULAWU).
The consultative meeting, which was held at Itezhi Tezhi district council chamber, was aimed at finding a way forward for the chronic problem of non-payment of workers’ salaries by the cash strapped local authority.
Mr Moote described the situation as unhealthy and urged the local authority to urgently find a solution to the non-payment of workers.
“It is unfair for people to work for such a number of months without pay, yet the local authority expects them to put in their full performance,” he said.
Mr Moote advised the local authority not to take the loyalty of the workers for granted.
“You are lucky that these workers here are peaceful. If it is in other areas you could have seen an industrial unrest,” Mr Moote warned.
Itezhi Tezhi District ZULAWU Branch Chairperson, Martin Kashweka, said the situation at Itezhi Tezhi council is likely to get worse because of government’s move to abolish crop levy and withdrawal of grants to local authorities.
He lamented that the removal of crop levy by the central government has crippled the revenue sources of most rural councils given that no grant has been introduced to replace the abolished sources of revenues.
Mr Kashweka also said the introduction of councilors’ salaries has equally negatively impacted the resource-constrained rural councils.
He appealed to the local authority to consider retrenching workers and pay them instead of retaining them without pay.
He also accused the Itezhi Tezhi District Council management of not making efforts to improve revenue sources.
“Our management is not showing interest in solving the workers’ plight because they are paid regularly from the central government and have nothing to worry about,” Mr Kashweka said.
Meanwhile, Itezhi Tezhi District Council Secretary, Charles Kabwe, has refuted claims that all workers have not been paid for 13 months.
Mr Kabwe said the workers were at different levels because some have been paid though not in full.
Mr Kabwe, who admitted that some workers have been unpaid for close to 12 months, said the council’s monthly revenue collection was only about K12, 000 against a total wage bill of K115, 672 for workers in division 4 and the councilor’s salaries.
“You can imagine a monthly collection of K12, 000 and we need to attend to all obligations such as paying allowances and fuel for all activities,” Mr Kabwe said.
He told the ZULAWU leaders that retrenchment was not possible because it was not the policy of the current government, saying the government is only paying people who have been retired and that the only option is resignation.
The Council Secretary explained that Itezhi Tezhi district council’s main revenue was grain levy which has been abolished by the government.
He pointed out that fish catches in Itezhi Tezhi have dwindled leading to low revenue from fish levy, adding that the central government’s withdrawal of grants has exacerbated the problem of limited revenue.
Mr. Kabwe said the evaluation roll for Itezhi Tezhi district has not been updated, thereby negatively affecting the local authority’s revenue base.
“We are using a valuation roll for 1989 when Itezhi Tezhi was still a sub district under Namwala district and values assigned properties are nothing to talk about,” he said.
Mr Kabwe said the local authority will be able to make three quarters of revenues required to attend to various obligations from selling plots and updating the valuation roll so that Itezhi Tezhi Power Corporation and Zesco dam will be able to pay K 2million each annually in rates.
He further said that the local authority has since set aside resources to pay surveyors who will update the valuation roll and number all plots so that they can be advertised to the public.
Local authorities across the country are facing similar problems of non-payment of salaries for division 4 workers whose wage bill is paid from revenues of the local authorities.