John Manzongo At the Workplace
Labour disputes remain a contentious issue and the country has seen cases dragging as far as 10 years or more without any tangible solution in sight. In my view, there must be dispute resolution mechanisms that guarantee solutions to labour disputes in a way that does not affect workers’ welfare and life thereafter. In many cases I have seen workers having to suffer for many years and some even die with their labour cases still pending at the labour court or continuously referred to different arbitrators in an effort to establish what exactly happened at their workplace.
It seems to me many employers do not seem to adhere to arbitrators judgments or awards to workers whenever a labour dispute arises and the cases are often referred to the Labour Court which is equivalent to the High Court when it is compared to how other cases are handled. At the labour court, cases are heard on a first come first served basis and many employers are fully aware that when a case is referred to this court it might take a long time before it is solved and some companies that will have been at disputes with workers would have closed by the time the case is heard and the worker, whether right or wrong, would have lost.
This is true to the old cliché — justice delayed is justice denied.
Some workers have died due to stress associated with unfair labour practices, dismissals or even harassment.
To some who even try following their cases at the Labour Court, they constantly lose the little money through numerous travels to the court to check on the progress of their cases.
The process of following up your case is so stressing and disappointing and many workers have tended to abandon pursuing cases after numerous frustrating efforts.
Just yesterday I was talking to an old man who was unfairly dismissed, according to how I interpreted his case.
He is just a few years to retirement age but he has been fighting that case for the past 10 years through arbitrators and the case has been heard about eleven times at the Labour Court and no favourable judgement has been issued.
His employer just dismissed him verbally without any disciplinary hearing or written warning.
The case was verbal and when it went for arbitration the worker won after a three-year legal battle, the employer was instructed to reinstate the worker with his full benefits backdating to the three years.
The employer did not pay the worker his dues and agreed to reinstate him.
The worker would come to work on a daily basis and spend the day sitting and doing nothing at the company gate at the instruction of the employer, who told guards not to let him in.
This old man would sit the whole day at the gate and when it was knock off time the guard would come and tell him that “murungu” the boss said he should go home and come again tomorrow.
It was the same for weeks until the worker decided to go back to the arbitrator to complain that he was not being given any work; he was just spending time at the company gate.
When approached by the arbitrator, the employer said the worker never reported for work after being reinstated, thus he had fired him for absenteeism.
This is gross violation of labour laws by this employer. Besides unfair dismissal in the first place, there was also constructive and deliberate plot dismissal as well.
The worker was not working but would spend the day sitting at the company gate at the verbal instructions of the boss.
To those who understand how certain guards can adhere to what the boss says to them, they will certainly know what I am trying to highlight here.
The employer can prove that this worker was absent from work through a register or roll call but the worker only received verbal instructions from the guards at the gate that he should wait and that is not proof because the guards can just be told to deny that he used to spend days at the gate waiting for further instructions.
This worker, like I highlighted, is fast reaching retirement age but to worsen his plight, his employer was not remitting the worker’s pension contributions to National Social Security Authority and when he went to enquire, his name was not even in the records at nssa.
What I just highlighted is a tip of the iceberg, there are far worse things happening out there to employees and the courts are taking ages to resolve such cases.