Masvingo council challenges labour law

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Masvingo Town Council has approached the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) seeking to challenge the Labour Act after its workers were given the nod to sell council property worth $3,5 million to recover their unpaid wages.

BY CHARLES LAITON

Council wants the court to set aside Section 92E (2) of the Labour Act after the Zimbabwe Urban Councils Workers’ Union (Zucwu) obtained a writ of execution to recover $3 571 295,34 owed to employees.

The order to attach the council’s property was granted by the High Court after Zucwu successfully registered an arbitral award as a court order.

However, the sale of the property was halted by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku last week after granting an interdict against Zucwu pending the determination of the matter by the ConCourt.

Masvingo is seeking the Concourt to remove Section 92E (2) of the Labour Act “as it violates the applicants’ rights enshrined in terms of sections 56 and 69 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe”.

In his founding affidavit, Masvingo town clerk Adolf Gusha attacked the arbitral against the council, adding the arbitrator was not qualified to make such an award.

“It is a notorious fact that most arbitrators in Zimbabwe, in fact, do not possess legal qualifications,” Gusha said. “They are mainly former officers in the Ministry of Labour who held positions as labour officers,” he added.

“They, therefore, are not always equipped with the knowledge of the intricate nuances of law. In terms of their qualifications, therefore, they are markedly below the qualifications of judges of the Labour and High Court.

“It is a notorious fact for the above reasons; arbitrators are wont to making mistakes particularly when matters of law are concerned.

“This is perhaps the reason why the legislature found it necessary that the arbitral awards made by arbitrators should be appealed against in terms Section 98 (10) only on points of law.”

According to the court papers, the attachment and removal of the council’s property was undertaken between November 30, 2012 and January 4, 2013.

The property has been kept by the Deputy Sheriff pending the determination of the legal dispute.

Gusha said the attachment of the council property had compromised the city’s service delivery.

He said the removal of the equipment had also affected road maintenance and the general administration of the city.

According to Gusha, the dispute had its genesis in protracted collective bargaining negotiations about salary increments during the Zimbabwean dollar era.

He said there was an arbitral award, which provided that all council workers should be awarded an increment across the board for the period between September 2008 and December 15, 2010.