Monarch Steel, ex-employees in out of court settlement

Former Monarch Steel employees have ‘finally’ reached an out of court settlement with Treger Products Pvt Ltd over their unpaid retrenchment packages, six years after their contracts were terminated.

In 2015, Monarch Steel Company laid off about 50 workers in a downsizing exercise but failed to process the terminal benefits of some of the employees.

With the assistance of the Zimbabwe Engineering Metal Trade and Allied Workers Union (ZEMTAWU), some of the retrenched workers approached the National Employment Council (NEC) which ordered Monarch Steel company to pay its former employees a total of US$63 102,60.

When the company failed to pay, as per the NEC order, the employees made an appeal at the Labour Court in 2017 which upheld the ruling.

The employees approached the High Court in 2018 after the company failed to comply with the order.

On Saturday, about 10 former workers staged a protest at the company’s premises demanding payment of their retrenchment packages.

ZEMTAWU trade unionist, Owen Mthobi Moyo confirmed the aggrieved workers met with the Treger management and were advised to solve the matter internally.

“Yes, we sat down and were advised to write down and quantify our claims. The management asked us to also write down the names of people who were with us. However, the challenge is that some of the workers are in the rural areas so we have to compile names before we meet again and they can pay them,” he said.

Moyo noted that it was, however, unfair that the workers only learnt Monarch Steel was just a division of Treger Pvt Ltd and not a company on its own when they took legal action against it.

“When the workers sued Monarch Steel, its human resources said they would pay but the human resources of Treger, which was the overseeing body, said, ‘no’ and objected to the payment and argued we had sued the wrong entity. This led to a Supreme Court judgment that Monarch Steel can’t pay but this was unfair because the public and workers thought it was a company in its own right,” he said.

In an interview with CITE, Treger Group Human Resources Manager, Bekezela Mangena, also confirmed the company met with the aggrieved workers and reached an out of court settlement.

“Yesterday (Monday) we met the workers and this matter centres on them approaching the Supreme Court. The issue was to do with a changeover from USD to ZWL and the Statutory Instrument, which governed the transaction of the financial amounts be it pension or debts as there was a 1:1 exchange rate,” he said.

“The workers took the matter to the Supreme Court and the bench came to Bulawayo. In the workers’ matter there was an entity called Monarch Steel, which was not a company but a division of Treger Pvt Ltd. The Supreme Court in 2016 ordered the workers to redo their case and fight the correct organisation which can sue and be sued but the workers disappeared.”

Mangena said, nevertheless, the company was still handing the former employees’ matter and had paid its dues to quite a number of them.

“It is important to highlight that there was never a time when Monarch Steel as a division refused to pay. The evidence is there. We have paid those and explained that to the workers yesterday even as the workers took their argument to court,” said the human resources official.

“Fast forward to now, the workers went to 20 Duncan Road, at a shareholder’s premise and purported that they were chased away from the company, which was not true. Although it was a Saturday, there were people in the office who would have attended to them. Yesterday I found them grouped in my parking space and I asked them to let me open the office so we could talk. We did talk and I can assure you we agreed to move on.”

Mangena indicated that Treger had not refused to pay the workers but the challenge was the shift from USD to ZWL.

“It was not that we refused to pay them but it was the changes from USD to ZWL and the 1:1 directive from the government and their (workers) failure to understand why it should be that way then pursued the matter by means of court,” Mangena said.

He also cited that there was a representative from the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) who was also part of the discussions.

“There was a Mr Moyo from the ZFTU, a competing body of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) who said ZCTU should have simply advised their clients about the change of the denominations, where pensions pegged at USD before were now ZWL. He said this settlement should have been reached a long time ago. We have reached an out of court settlement and we are yet to meet with the workers before Friday who have to come back with a position,” Mangena said.

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