Lawyers representing workers at The Mail newspaper and the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists have filed an urgent chamber application at the Labour Court challenging the publishers’ decision to send 28 journalists on forced leave without pay.
The court application comes after the director of Fruitlink Ventures Private Limited, Hensley Chamboko, failed to respond to the 24-hour ultimatum the lawyers sent ordering him to withdraw letters issued to workers following the paper’s “temporary closure” in the face of operational challenges.
According to the applicants’ founding affidavit, filed by Matsikidze and Mucheche law firm, on Wednesday last week, Fruitlink Ventures, the publishers of The Mail and Business Weekly, wrote a memo to each journalist directing them to go on unpaid leave until further notice.
However, the lawyers argued the employer erred in suspending the salaries through forced leave without a court order or consent of the employees.
“The respondent has violated the fundamental right of the employees to remuneration without following the necessary legal steps provided for in terms of the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01),” read part of the affidavit.
The lawyers said: “If the matter is not heard on an urgent basis, these employees will be street kids and in essence a pat on the back to the employer that it can infringe rights of the employees at will and get away with it.”
The Mail shut down last week owing to operational challenges in the face of huge printing costs that saw the paper running at a loss as it did not have its own printing press.
As a result, the paper incurred enormous debts with other printing firms.