Arda labour dispute hearing fails to take off

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THE hearing of an appeal by Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) following a labour dispute with its 450 former employees failed to kick off at the Supreme Court yesterday after the court of appeal noted that the workers had not filed their heads of argument.

CHARLES LAITON

Arda and its workers locked horns in 2009 after the farming parastatal allegedly breached retrenchment procedures following the takeover of its Chisumbanje and Middle Sabi Estates by a private investor, MacDom Rating.

As the changeover to the new employer was in progress, Arda management is alleged to have communicated to its employees of the retrenchment process and how the packages would be worked out, but the two parties failed to reach an agreement.

At some point, concerns were raised by employees over the conditions of service with the new investor making specific reference to previous employment with Arda and were given assurance no one would be laid off.

The stand was later referred to the Labour Court where Justice Betty Chidziva ruled in favour of the workers and accused Arda of failing to follow correct retrenchment procedures.

As a result, Arda was ordered to reinstate the employees and to properly deal with its intended retrenchment and to consider proper packages. Irked by the court decision, Arda filed an appeal at the Supreme Court.

In its appeal, Arda argued that the Labour Court should not have dealt with the matter in view of the fact that only one person identified in court papers as B Munjari, was cited as an applicant and could not have represented the other 450 who were not mentioned by names.

Arda also argued that Justice Chidziva did not consider the implications of her judgment.

The matter failed to proceed yesterday after the court of appeal headed by Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba pointed out that in the court records there were no heads of arguments filed by the workers.

The employees’ lawyer Advocate Thabani Mpofu promised to file the heads of arguments and Arda’s representative advocate Lewis Uriri consented to the postponement sine die.