SUSPENDED Bata employees have accused management of dragging its feet in concluding their cases after they engaged in an “illegal” demonstration last year. Nineteen workers who comprise mainly of members of the workers’ committee were suspended without pay and benefits on allegations of “active obstruction”, threatening behaviour and sabotage in July 2015.
The workers were demanding an upward review of housing and transport allowances. Initially they were suspended for two weeks pending disciplinary hearings but management is yet to act on the matter.
This has prompted the workers to take their matter for conciliation with the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Services. Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) regional officer for Midlands, Charles Chikozho told Chronicle Business that the shoe manufacturing firm has ignored several letters by the labour officer to hear the matter.
“I’m not sure what the company’s (Bata) motive is because since last year when they suspended the employees they’ve not called them for disciplinary hearings. When the same workers approach the ministry so that they can map a way forward, the company officials don’t pitch up for conciliation,” said Chikozho.
“This shows that the company is insensitive to the plight of the suspended workers. Most of these workers have families to feed and obligations to settle and how do you expect them to survive when the employer acts unilaterally and doesn’t abide by the labour laws of the land?”
Efforts to get comment from Bata management were fruitless. The shoe manufacturer, the biggest in the country, is also entangled in another labour dispute with its ex-employees over the failure to pay severance packages after their contracts were terminated in August last year.
Bata terminated contracts of over 90 employees last year taking advantage of the Supreme Court ruling which allowed companies to terminate workers’ contracts on three-month notice.
After being paid for the three months period, 61 workers are now demanding their severance packages for the years they served the company. The workers have taken the matter to the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.