Lecturers embroiled in a legal battle with the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology have approached the High Court seeking registration of a US$8,6 million arbitral award they won in relocation expenses and interest at the Labour Court.
The 18 lecturers were unilaterally transferred in 2012 after participating in a strike, but they successfully challenged their transfers with Government being ordered to meet relocation expenses.
Government, represented by Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Permanent Secretary Dr Washington Mbizvo allegedly ignored the order. The employer late last year tried to suspend the Labour Court order but the bid failed as the same court ruled that Government was approaching the court “with dirty hands”.
The court ruled that Government was seeking stay of execution of the judgment from the same court whose orders it had not still not complied with.
Now the lecturers, represented by the College Lectures Association of Zimbabwe, have applied for registration of the award at the High Court to enforce Government to pay them.
The lecturers are from Bondolfi, Mkoba and Masvingo teachers’ colleges. In their founding affidavit, they want Government to pay them US$8 643 898.
“As the judgment is now expressed in monetary terms, the applicants are advised that it is capable of registration in this Honourable Court,” read the application. The relocation expenses amount exceeds the monetary jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court. That is why we seek registration of the said judgments in this Honourable Court.”
The money includes all the expenses the lecturers incurred for the more than 300 days they were unilaterally transferred. The relocation expenses, that cover breakfast, lunch, dinner and supplementary allowances, were calculated in terms of the travelling and subsistence rates of the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology.
Initially, Government was ordered to pay each lecturer a minimum of US$10 500 but this did not happen and the figure has ballooned to US$297 000, including interest, per each lecturer.
After the industrial action, Dr Mbizvo conducted hearings for more than 300 lecturers who participated in the strike, resulting in some being fined while others were warned.
Government had argued that disciplinary order had already been enforced and different penalties were imposed because each party of the applicants was facing different charges and aggravating circumstances.
Labour Court senior President Ms Betty Chidziva ruled that civil servants were entitled to be consulted before transfer and should have been granted a sufficient notice period.
She said in section 5C(iv) of the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education HIV and Aids at the Workplace Policy, it was held that the need to “foster the family will, for example transfer of members should be planned well in advance to prevent prolonged separation of families”.
The six-day countrywide strike in 2011 was meant to force Government to review college lecturers’ salaries and working conditions.