Former Clover Leaf Motors workers sue employer

At least 23 former Clover Leaf Motors employees have approached the Labour Court challenging termination of their employment on three months’ notice, arguing they ought to have been retrenched as opposed to getting fired since the company had decided to cut staff.

BY CHARLES LAITON

Richard Mwanza and 22 others, said they were all employed by Clover Leaf Motors in various capacities, but had their employment contracts terminated on three months’ notice with effect from the beginning of August last year until the end of October.

In the termination letters given to the employees, according to the court papers, Clover Leaf Motors Group allegedly explained that performance was declining and it had decided to cut staff.

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For that reason, the employees took the view that the termination was “wrong and unlawful” and unjustifiable at law and believed the reason given obliged the employer to retrench them as opposed to terminating them on notice.

However, in its submissions the firm said it was apparent from the Zuva Petroleum case (which resulted in thousands losing their jobs) that the argument raised by former Clover Leaf employees, was no different from that raised by Don Nyamande and Kingston Donga.

“If anything the complainant’s (employees) position is even worse than that of Nyamande and Donga in the Zuva case where the employer had initially decided to retrench, but subsequently changed its mind. In this case the complainants were advised that their contracts were being terminated on notice and the respondent did exactly that,” Clover Leaf said in its submissions.

The firm further said it was important to note that the only legislation in force “purporting” to limit the right to terminate on notice was the Labour Amendment No 5 of 2015 which only came into force after the employees’ contracts had already been terminated.

“It is apparent from the above that an employer is not obliged to give any reasons for the decision to terminate on notice. The only qualifications relates to the benefits that such employee is entitled to. With respect, it is not for a conciliator to deal with the reasons behind a termination on notice. As already mentioned, the notice itself is the reason,” the firm said.

“On the basis of the above it is quite obvious that the complainants have no legal basis for bringing the misplaced complaints before a labour officer, which has only served to harass, inconvenience and cost the employer unnecessarily.”

The matter is yet to be set down for hearing at the Labour Court.

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