The High Court has ordered packaging company, Fleximail to pay its 39 former employees dismissed in 2005, damages in lieu of reinstatement in United States dollars.
The judgement, which was handed down two weeks ago, is expected to be a relief to workers and a test case for many companies that dismissed employees and opted to pay them in Zimbabwe dollars.
The employees, who were represented by Munyaradzi Gwisai, were allegedly charged with misconduct and dismissed in 2005 following a disciplinary process.
The workers however challenged their dismissal right up to the Labour Court, which ruled in their favour and ordered their reinstatement, alternatively, payment of damages in lieu of reinstatement.
Fleximail is said to have opted to pay damages and caused their quantification on December 10 2008 to five-year salary using the cutoff date of July 5 and tendered them to the workers.
On February 11 2009 the company’s lawyers, Mwonzora and Associates wrote to the employees through their lawyer, Gwisai, and advised them of quantification of damages.
“In line with the judgement of the L abour Court handed down on December 10 2008, please find herewith our client’s cheque in the sum of $12 594, 77, in full settlement of the amounts due to your clients.
“A copy of the schedule as to how the various figures were arrived at is attached hereto. You will note from the computation that the amounts have been revalued and inflation adjusted to February, 2009. The matter is accordingly closed . . . ” wrote the company lawyers.
In his judgement, High Court judge Justice Andrew Mutema said: “Since I have already held that the applicants (workers) must be paid their damages not in Zimbabwe dollars but in foreign currency of their choice (and they chose US$), the rate of salary calculation of the damages should be the one obtaining as at July 5 2007 (the date of the reinstatement order) but being the official rate of exchange of the ZW$ to US$ equivalent,” Mutema ruled.
According to the foreign exchange rates obtained from Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, US$ was equivalent to ZW$250, 0000 as at January 2007.
“I also find that the respondent (Fleximail), in the face of the stark economic reality obtained at the time of its tender of the damages, was quite unreasonable in refusing to yield to reason. It should accordingly pay the applicants costs of suits. In any event costs always follow the result,” the judge added.