Judge orders Bata to cough up…33 workers demand allowance shortfalls

Mashudu Netsianda Senior Business Reporter—
THIRTY-three Bata Shoe Company workers have filed a chamber application seeking to register a Labour Court order which was granted in their favour last week. The application, filed in terms of section 92b (3) of the Labour Act, seeks to enforce Gweru Labour Court judge, Justice Custom Kachambwa’s ruling ordering the shoe manufacturer to pay the workers $23,020,62 being shortfalls on their housing, transport and bonus allowances.

According to the court papers filed at the Bulawayo High Court last Tuesday, the workers led by Simon Malunga through their lawyers, Makonese Chambati and Mataka Attorneys, are the applicants while Bata was cited as the respondent.

“This is an application for registration of an order of the Labour Court in terms of section 92b (3) of the Labour Act for it to have the effect of a court order for purposes of enforcement,” said Malunga in his founding affidavit.

In his ruling, Justice Kachambwa ordered Bata to pay the workers their dues after the firm failed to implement the National Employment Council (NEC) appeals committee award of November 19, 2002.

In terms of the order, the shoe manufacturing company is liable to pay the workers $23,020,62. The workers said in the event that their employer decided to oppose their application, they want an order that compels the company to pay the costs of suits at attorney-client scale.

The workers said the application was premised on the fact that their employer either refused or neglected to pay them their allowances. “The respondent has demonstrated utter disdain of a valid order of the Labour Court which is binding upon it by failing to comply.

“This has catapulted the applicants to approach this honourable court for registration of the order,” said the workers. In June last year, the workers engaged in tea break protests to pressure management to honour a review of their housing and transport allowances as awarded in the arbitration.

The company lost a Supreme Court appeal in which it was seeking to get reprieve against increasing its employees’ salaries. In the application, the firm cited the NEC chairman for the leather industry and Zimbabwe Leather and Allied Workers Union as respondents.

Bata appealed to the Supreme Court after the Labour Court said it did not have jurisdiction to handle the firm’s application for review. This followed an arbitral award for the company to increase its employees’ salaries between July 1 and December 31, 2010.

An arbitrator had asked the shoe company to increase wages for its employees by 9,1 percent. The company sought to be exempted from the salary increase, leading to the court proceedings.

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