Former Zimplow Holdings employees Friday staged a demonstration at the company premises in Bulawayo demanding their dues after they were ‘unfairly’ retrenched in 2015.
The workers gathered at the company premises around 10 am holding placards written: ‘We were unfairly dismissed, ‘We have been patient for five years,’ ‘We demand our loss of employment compensation,’ among other messages.
They argued Zimplow Holdings failed to follow the procedures of the Labour Act No 17 of Chapter 28.01 when they terminated their contracts and five years after retrenching them had failed to pay what they were owed in United States dollars.
“We strongly believe and understand that the procedures of the Labour Act no 17 Chapter 28.01 were not followed. 12B of the Labour Relations Act, Clause 4 and 12C clearly states the conditions of retrenchment,” said Paul Ngwenya, one of the retrenched workers.
The former employees were fired following a July 17, 2015 Supreme Court ruling where a judgment was made in a Zuva Petroleum (Private) Limited case to the effect that an employer had a right to terminate a permanent employment contract on notice.
Soon after that judgment, thousands of employees lost their employment as employers took advantage of the legal effect of Zuva judgement.
Ngwenya noted they wrote a petition to Zimplow Holdings last week Wednesday and gave them seven days to respond failure to that they would gather Friday.
“I joined Zimplow Holdings in 1984 and became a supervisor, my termination and that of other colleagues was unfair. I was at my rural area on leave when my wife called, informing me the company had sent letters of retrenchment. This puzzled me because when I was granted leave, nothing was communicated to me,” he said.
He added that the company informed them of their retrenchment, they would be paid two weeks for every year served.
“I worked for 35 years and that would mean, I will receive pay for two weeks. The company owes me about $40 000, plus damages, trauma and sickness. I was meant to retire in 2024 at the age is 65 so I am very bitter just that I am disciplined,” Ngwenya said.
Another ex-worker, Mboniso Sibanda, complained Zimplow informed him not to set foot in the company premises again whereas negotiations would be done outside.
“I started work in 1989 and rose to be a supervisor until I was stopped in 2016 January. We received no implements which are usually rewarded after long service. I am demonstrating because I need my pension for five and half years,” he said.
Christopher Mpala, who joined Zimplow in 1979 said he felt cheated after 40 years working for the company.
“When I started, Zimplow was called Bulawayo Steel but now I have nothing to show for my sweat,” he said.
In their petition, the former workers cited new sections of the amended Labour Act, Section 12 of Chapter 28.01 – Subsection (5) (6) and (7) where notice of termination of the contract of employment was to be given by either point shall be (a) (b) (c) and (d) any of the relevant in accordance the appropriate period of notice required in terms of subsection (4) or (5).
They also quizzed the corrupt manner in which the case was withdrawn from Labour Court by an individual, another ex-employee without their consent
“However our argument is very simple and clear. We respect the judgement which was made by our judges of Zimbabwe on different panels, the first judgement by Hon. Judge Chief Justice Gladys Mhuru, while the second judgment was made by none other than Chief Justice Luke Malaba,” which they recorded as a “win -win situation” for both employers and employees.
“We demand the settlement of our dues what we have worked for all our lives,” read the petition.
Sindiso Mathe, cited as one of the aggrieved workers in the founding affidavit and said to be the one who allegedly withdrew the case from courts denied ever doing so.
“I know nothing about this and this has caused friction, as my other colleagues accuse me of selling out on them. I say the company is very corrupt as they used my name illegally,” he alleged.
The workers were joined by members of the Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) which said it supported their cause as they deserved justice.
“As MRP, we are for peace and justice in our lifetime, which is why we responded to come and support the Zimplow former workers who are aggrieved over their unpaid dues and bad treatment,” said MRP Secretary for Culture, Parton Xaba.
Zimplow Holdings Human Resources Officer in Bulawayo, Alderman David Ndlovu, said he could not comment further on the demonstration or issue as “the head office in Harare noted this matter was in the courts.”