Home » General » Bank Managers Lose Labour Case

An attempt by 11 Steward Bank managers to bar the bank from withholding their salaries and benefits pending retrenchment flopped after the Labour Court threw out the case, saying it did not have jurisdiction to hear constitutionally-related matters.

The 11 managers had brought an urgent application of a constitutional nature for the enforcement of fundamental human rights and freedoms .

This was after the bank had told them last year that it would not be able to pay their August salaries on time.

But Labour Court judge Justice Godfrey Musariri last week rejected the application in one of the first tests given to the court to pronounce whether or not it has been granted new powers under the new Constitution to determine constitutional applications.

Justice Musariri upheld the preliminary point that was raised by Steward Bank’s lawyer Aocate Taona Sibanda of Chinawa Law Chambers, that the Labour Court had no jurisdiction to hear constitutional matters. A Sibanda argued that in terms of the Labour Act, the court was not empowered to issue declaratory orders and interdicts, which Justice Musariri accepted.

“The Act does not provide this court with jurisdiction in matters of the acquisition of property whether lawful or unlawful,” said Justice Musariri.

A Sibanda welcomed the Labour Court decision, saying it was an important decision.

“It lays to rest part of the many misconceptions, misunderstandings and in some instances sheer confusion on the powers, procedures and rights conferred to courts and individuals alike under the new constitution,” said A Sibanda.

“It also brings to the fore the need for litigants to continually debate the bill of rights and for the courts to analyse and pronounce the law in order to develop sound constitutional law jurisprudence.”

The labour dispute began after Steward Bank told 18 managers in April 2014 that it would retrench them. The challenges were well documented and evidenced in the published financial results for 2012 and 2013. Some of the managers embraced the bank’s offers in the course of the negotiations while others preferred for the matter to be handled by the Retrenchment Board which dealt with the matter in August and September 2014.

While the matter was still before the Board, in August 2014, the bank was unable to continue paying salaries for the managers targeted for retrenchment. This triggered the litigation as the managers through their lawyer, Mr Selby Hwacha of Dube, Manikai and Hwacha, filed the application of a constitutional nature at the Labour Court. They cited various constitutional provisions for the argument that under the new constitution any court has jurisdiction to hear constitutional applications and to give full effect to rights and freedoms enshrined in the bill of rights. But A Sibanda argued that confiscation of salaries did not fall within the definition of property under the new bill of rights.

He further argued that the managers’ argument that non-payment of August salaries due to them when those salaries became due was unlawful and was rendered an academic argument.

Source : The Herald