Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Companies recall retrenched workers.

A number of companies are reportedly recalling workers they fired on three months’ notice to avoid compensation outlined in the Labour Amendment Bill gazetted last Friday and set for debate in Parliament today.

It has also emerged that some of the companies are already negotiating exit packages with the sacked employees in anticipation of the Bill being passed without any major amendments.

Trade unions said yesterday that several sacked employees had reported being recalled.

“The reports we have are that several companies, which I will protect for now, are recalling the workers back to work since the gazetting of the Bill because of the retrospective nature of clause 18, which states that Section 12 of the proposed Act applies to everyone whose service was terminated on three months’ notice on or after the 17th of July, 2015,” said Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary-general Japhet Moyo.
Companies recall retrenched workers.
“Some companies are already panicking and have silently demanded employees to return the letters of termination of contracts and have taken them back. It’s all about the fear to pay them off.”

Moyo added: “Others have started negotiating packages and it means many of them have seen that they will end up in the courts after failing to pay off the dismissed workers.”

Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions president Alfred Makwarimba, confirmed receiving reports of companies rescinding their decisions.

“There are reports that companies are withdrawing their decisions and I’ll disclose the names of the companies after our meeting tomorrow (today), after we get feedback from our people on the ground,” he said.

“We had written letters to companies such as Sino Zim, TN Holdings, Metal Smelting among others telling them to reverse their decisions and, we have a team led by our organising secretary which made follow-ups and will table its findings in the planned meeting.”

Clause 5 of the Bill says those who lost jobs on contract termination are entitled to minimum retrenchment benefits that include one month’s salary for every two years served.

This will apply to both retrenchees in general and, workers whose contracts were terminated on or after July 17 when the Supreme Court made the ruling that employers can give three months notice to workers without any explanation.

In the event that the Bill sails through, employers would be required to pay up the compensation for the sacked employees “no later than the date when the notice of termination of employment takes effect”.

Clause 5 of the Bill repeals parts of Section 12C of the Labour Act dealing with retrenchment procedures and creates the compensation provision in 12C (2).

It reads: “Unless better terms are agreed between the employer and employees concerned or their representatives, a package (hereinafter called ‘the minimum retrenchment package’) of not less than one month’s salary or wages for every two years of service as an employee (or the equivalent lesser proportion of one month’s salary or wages for a lesser period of service) shall be paid by the employer as compensation for loss of employment (whether the loss of employment is occasioned by retrenchment or by virtue of termination of employment pursuant to Section 12(4a)(a), (b) or (c), no later than date when the notice of termination of employment takes effect.”

Section 12(4a) prohibits employers from terminating an employment contract on notice unless such termination is in terms of an employment or model code.

It also makes termination possible where both parties mutually agree in writing, or if the employee was engaged for a fixed period.

It is these proposed amendments, trade unions said, that have sent some companies into panic, fearing they would end up failing to compensate the dismissed workers.

In the proposed law, workers with open-ended contracts and whose employment was terminated will be eligible for compensation.

A few companies continued with the termination of contracts yesterday, with Astra Holdings sending home about 50 workers on three months’ notice.

“The terminal benefits due to you up to the last day of your contract of employment will be computed and paid into your usual salary account,” read a letter send to the employees. “A pay slip showing the breakdown thereof will be furnished to you.”

Trade unions say more than 20,000 workers have been dismissed since the Supreme Court ruling last month allowing companies to fire workers upon issuing them three months’ notice.
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