Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
The Labour Court has given Air Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd a 60-day ultimatum to either reinstate or pay damages to 300 workers whose contracts were unlawfully terminated on three months’ notice in 2015.
Labour Court judge Justice Emilia Muchawa found that although Air Zimbabwe (Airzim) ended the contracts in the spirit of the infamous Zuva Petroleum judgment of July 17, 2015, Section 24 of the Finance Act Number 8 of 2015, gave retrospective effect to the Labour Amendment Act, Number 5 of 2015.
The Labour Amendment Act, through Section 12(4a), outlawed arbitrary termination of employment on notice and set the parameters in which such termination should be done.
The new law only allows termination on notice in circumstances where one is employed on a fixed contract basis or has consented to the termination of contract. Justice Muchawa ruled that Airzim unlawfully terminated the 300 employees’ contracts and ordered that they be reinstated or be paid a reasonable compensation for damages.
“Having already found that the second to 301st respondents’ contracts were not terminated pursuant to Section 12(4a), it follows that they do not fall in the categories of those to be paid the minimum retrenchment package. Further, the primary remedy for unfair dismissal is reinstatement,” ruled Justice Muchawa.
“Where the court makes an order for reinstatement, it must also make an order for damages as an alternative to reinstatement,” she said. Consequently, the judge confirmed the reinstatement order. “The first respondent (Airzim) unlawfully and unfairly terminated the contracts of the remaining 2nd to 301st respondents. “The first respondent be and is hereby ordered to, within 60 days of this order, reinstate the workers to their positions without loss of pay and benefits.
“If reinstatement is no longer tenable, the first respondent is to pay the damages in lieu of reinstatement which the parties are to negotiate, failing which either party can approach the applicant for quantification,” ruled Justice Muchawa. National Airways Workers’ Union vice president Mr Elijah Chiripasi hailed the judgment saying the arbitrary firing of workers without benefit had caused deaths and family break-ups.
“The effect of the Zuva judgment was so devastating and we lost at least five lives as a result of stress and suffering,” said Mr Chiripasi. In the Zuva case, the Supreme Court ruled that employer and employee were equal parties and either could terminate the relationship on three months’ notice.
“We have witnessed families collapsing due to financial challenges after their lifestyles suddenly went down as a result of the heartless decision to fire innocent people empty-handed. “We welcome the judgment and it has come as a sigh of relief to the affected workers,” he said.