Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
At least 21 middle managers with Standard Chartered Bank of Zimbabwe have filed a High Court application seeking to bar their employer from retrenching them. The managers, who have since been notified of their impending retrenchment, want the High Court to interdict the bank from implementing its plan pending finalisation of their labour challenge at the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.
In the court interdict filed last week, the 21 argued that they were entitled to protection of the law and that the bank must not be allowed to fire them in disregard of a pending challenge to be determined by a labour officer.
“I aver that the applicants have a right worth protecting by way of an interdict that there is a reasonable apprehension of injury, absence of any other remedy and that the balance of convenience favours the granting of the relief sought,” read the founding affidavit by one of the managers, Mr Shingirai Mungate.
Top labour lawyer Mr Caleb Mucheche of Matsikidze and Mucheche Legal Practitioners filed the court application on behalf of the managers to which the bank is yet to respond.
The managers argued that if the bank is allowed to proceed with executing the planned retrenchment, their challenge at the ministry will be rendered academic. “The respondent should respect due process of law by not proceeding with the execution of the hotly contested retrenchment process before the pending dispute is finalised by the labour officer.
“If the respondent is allowed to proceed with execution of our retrenchment before finalisation of the dispute on such retrenchment by the labour office, our dispute will become largely academic and nugatory,” said Mr Mungate.
The workers, according to the challenge before the ministry, argued that the bank did not comply with the critical provisions of Section 12D of the Labour Act which compels the company to firstly implement anti-retrenchment measures before resorting to the actual retrenchment process.
It was argued that the employer unilaterally resolved to implement the retrenchment process outside the works council.
The managers argued that the bank created an artificial crisis in a bid to justify their unfair retrenchment.
“There is no cogent justification for retrenchment as the alleged low business the company is a self-induced crisis by the company which has deliberately stopped opening new bank accounts to paint an artificial and cosmetic bleak picture of its business performance,” read the challenge.
The managers submitted that the bank was exporting jobs which were supposed to be performed by Zimbabwean-based workers to foreign countries as a way of creating an artificial redundancy of employees in the country.
It is the managers’ argument that the company last year retrenched some 60 workers through a voluntary retrenchment scheme and that there was no need to lay off more workers now.
They argued that the bank was mainly discriminating against those workers who had served for longer periods ranging from 10 to 34 years as a way of sending them home empty-handed.