Zim court orders companies to pay workers dismissed on 3 month notice

2018-03-31 15:57
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Thousands of workers who were summarily fired under a contentious labour law three years ago were set to be compensated, according to a state owned newspaper.

The Constitutional Court this week has ruled that those who were retrenched after a Supreme Court judgement said employers did not need to pay redundancy packages, and could give employees just three months' notice, are entitled to their severance packages, reported the state owned Herald newspaper.

The ruling comes after two private firms have sought clarity on the validity of paying its former employees.

Constitutional Court judges dismissed Greatness Stores and Meikles’ case after they had challenged the constitutionality of the retrospective application of the law.

The two firms had argued that since the workers were fired before the amendment to the law, as employers they should not be bound to pay the workers their severance.

But, passing judgement, the constitutional court judges said the law sought to ensure fairness was achieved as workers were sent packing without anything after they had worked for the companies for years. 

“All that the legislation did was to impose a retrospective obligation to conduct that was past, justifiable so, to achieve fairness and justice. Acting in accordance with the fundamental principles of fairness and justice, the employers would have realised that long-serving employees deserve more than three months’ pay notice. Long-serving employees would have become what they were in society because of their work,” the constitutional court chief justice Malaba was quoted as saying.

In 2015, more than 20 000 Zimbabweans from both the private sector and state-owned firms were fired after a Supreme Court judgement said employers did not need to pay redundancy packages and could give employees just three months' notice.

Previously, employers had to undergo lengthy retrenchment processes and pay severance packages.

Workers in food, banking, furniture and security industries were among those who received termination notices first, a top trade union official was quoted as saying at the time.

“We continue to have more workers thrown into the streets, and we are very, very worried about this development,” Japhet Moyo, the secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions told News24 at the time.

A few months after the court ruled, an under fire then president Robert Mugabe moved swiftly to stop the retrenchments as they were likely to pose a threat in his government.

According to AFP, Mugabe signed a new law banning mass layoffs following the spate of job losses.

The new law compelled employers to give notice to workers' representatives and a government board before any redundancies are processed.

Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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