30 com­pa­nies seek to dodge re­trench­ment pay­outs

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Business Chronicle - Oliver Kazunga

THE Zim­babwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has re­ferred to the Re­trench­ment Board more than 30 com­pa­nies seek­ing ex­emp­tion from pay­ing re­trench­ment pack­ages to dis­missed work­ers.

Fol­low­ing the July 17, 2015 Supreme Court rul­ing, which granted em­ploy­ers pow­ers to dis­miss em­ploy­ees on three months’ no­tice with­out pay­ing a re­trench­ment pack­age, a num­ber of com­pa­nies coun­try­wide took the op­por­tu­nity to lay off the work­ers.

In Au­gust last year, Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe signed into law the Labour Amend­ment Bill to re­peal com­mon law pro­vi­sions that had been used by em­ploy­ers to fire work­ers on three months’ no­tice.

How­ever, em­ploy­ers have made a High Court ap­pli­ca­tion against some amend­ments to the Labour Act.

“It’s true that some com­pa­nies who fired the work­ers on three months’ no­tice haven’t paid the work­ers their re­trench­ment pack­ages in terms of the Act.

“This is be­cause the em­ployer doesn’t want to ad­here to the law; the com­pa­nies have con­fided with the Em­ploy­ers Con­fed­er­a­tion of Zim­babwe (Em­coz) to ap­ply for ex­emp­tion.

“About 33 com­pa­nies who wanted a blan­ket ex­emp­tion from pay­ing re­trench­ment pack­ages have ap­proached ZCTU and we’ve turned down their cases and re­ferred them to the Re­trench­ment Board,” said the ZCTU sec­re­tary-gen­eral Mr Japhet Moyo in an in­ter­view.

It has been re­ported in some sec­tions of the me­dia that em­ploy­ers who are part of a High Court ap­pli­ca­tion chal­leng­ing amend­ments to labour laws, have re­fused to ap­proach the Re­trench­ment Board for an ex­emp­tion say­ing this would im­ply that they re­trenched the work­ers.

This week, about 11 for­mer work­ers at Bu­l­away­obased Western Trans­port who were af­fected by the July 17 Supreme Court rul­ing told Busi­ness Chron­i­cle that they were yet to get paid their re­trench­ment pack­ages based on two weeks’ salary for ev­ery year served.

Their for­mer em­ployer, they said has ar­gued that it can only pay them one week salary for ev­ery year served. The ex-work­ers said they have re­fused one week salary for ev­ery year served their for­mer em­ployer has pro­posed.

“Fol­low­ing the ex­emp­tion sub-com­mit­tee meet­ing held on the 10th of June 2016, the ex­emp­tion sub­com­mit­tee rec­om­mended the fol­low­ing:

“The par­ties were given time to en­gage each other and reach an agree­ment, but failed. The em­ployer is ad­vised to pay the min­i­mum re­trench­ment pack­age of one month salary/wages for ev­ery two years of ser­vice as per Labour Amend­ment Num­ber 5 of 2015. Af­fected em­ploy­ees to be paid on or be­fore 31st July 2016,” reads part of a let­ter from the Na­tional Em­ploy­ment Coun­cil (NEC) for the trans­port in­dus­try, dated June 13, 2016 ad­dressed to Western Trans­port man­age­ment.

In an in­ter­view, Western Trans­port hu­man re­sources ad­vi­sor Mrs Gla­dys Mpempa (pic­tured) con­firmed the dis­agree­ment be­tween the firm and its ex-work­ers.

She said while other com­pa­nies were seek­ing ex­emp­tion from pay­ing the dis­missed work­ers re­trench­ment pack­ages through rep­re­sen­ta­tion by Em­coz, Western Trans­port was not part of that ar­range­ment.

“We’ve held meet­ings with the em­ploy­ees in re­la­tion to their re­trench­ment pack­ages and have stood their ground that they want two weeks salary for ev­ery year served. We’re fac­ing cash flow chal­lenges due to the pre­vail­ing busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to a doc­u­ment, which Mrs Mpempa availed to Busi­ness Chron­i­cle that Western Trans­port wrote to the NEC for the trans­port in­dus­try ap­ply­ing for ex­emp­tion of pay­ment of re­trench­ment pack­ages, her or­gan­i­sa­tion stated that it can only pay the af­fected work­ers a week’s pay for each year worked.

“We ad­dress you in terms of Sec­tion 12 C (3) (a) of Amend­ment Act Num­ber 5 of 2015. We ini­tially sub­mit­ted an ap­pli­ca­tion for to­tal ex­emp­tion and we re­ceived your de­ci­sion dated 13th June 2016 that the com­pany should pay the min­i­mum re­trench­ment pack­age of one month salary for ev­ery two years of ser­vice.

“As a com­pany we’ve re­con­sid­ered our po­si­tion and can now of­fer a week’s pay for each year worked. We still em­pha­sise on fi­nan­cial in­ca­pac­ity and at­tach hereto the fi­nan­cials of the com­pany to jus­tify our re-ap­pli­ca­tion,” reads part of the doc­u­ment dated July 28, 2016.

The NEC for the trans­port in­dus­try has since re­quested Western Trans­port to sub­mit the list of work­ers af­fected, amount owed in terms of the min­i­mum pack­age by em­ployee and the amount owed in terms of the com­pany’s pro­posal.

Western Trans­port has also been asked to sub­mit a pay­ment plan for its pro­posed pack­age and the cur­rent bank state­ment for the past three months.

A cou­ple who re­fused to be iden­ti­fied pick up maize grains spilt from a truck along Khami Road in Bu­l­awayo yes­ter­day. The two say they were tempted by the large amount of maize that was on the tar­mac. (Pic­ture by Eliah Saushoma)

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