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CONTRACT workers, who were laid off by ZB Financial Holdings last month, are up in arms claiming they were unfairly dismissed.

More than 200 workers have been affected by the decision to shed staff.

Affected workers who offered security and cleaning services, told businessdigest that they had been given short notice in their dismissal adding that it was illegal to dismiss them after renewing their contracts over the past seven to eight years.

“The dismissals are illegal. How can someone have their contract renewed over six, seven, eight years and continue to be a temporary worker?” one of the workers charged. “This is illegal and against the labour laws of the country.”

The workers said as a result, they were mulling taking legal action against the bank.

They also claim the bank owed allowances for overtime and shift duties dating back to 2009 adding that the bank had only resumed paying the allowances in July 2013. The workers want the bank to compensate them for the four- year period in which they did not receive their allowances.

They also said that they were being dismissed without any terminal benefits leaving them to struggle with no money to pay for essentials such as rentals and school fees.

ZB Financial Holdings group executive head, services Shadowsight Chiganze said the dismissals were an internal strategic decision to focus on core operations.

“The group made a business decision to outsource cleaning and security services in order to concentrate on its core business,” Chiganze told businessdigest.

He denied allegations by the workers that they had been illegally dismissed saying the bank followed the law to the letter.

“The staff members in question were on fixed term contracts which were administered in terms of the existing labour laws of the country,” he said.

“The group scrupulously complied with these laws and regulations in its dealings with the former contract workers. All the legal obligations to the former staff members were paid as and when due.”

He said the bank had afforded the workers the chance to form a company to take over the security and cleaning services but failed to do so.

“When the business decision to outsource the services was made, the contract workers were given an opportunity to form their own company to take-over the security and cleaning services,” Chiganze said.

“Regrettably, they were not able to organise themselves as there was a lack of leadership and management skills amongst themselves.”

He added: “The services were then put out to tender. One of the conditions of the tender was that the successful bidder should absorb the contract workers into their workforce.

All former staff members were afforded an opportunity to join the successful bidders of the security and cleaning services tender as employees. The majority of the former contract workers have taken up employment with the successful bidders.”

On claims that the bank still owed allowances to the laid off workers, Chiganze said the claims were “still receiving attention” adding that all legitimate obligations, would be settled.

As to a possible move by the workers to take legal action against the bank, Chiganze said: “The former contract workers have the right to seek redress in a competent court if they feel aggrieved by any decision made by the group as it is their democratic right to do so. On its part, the group reserves the right to defend its position as it handled this matter in compliance with the labour laws.”

The laying off of contractors comes at a time when the economy is paralysed by a debilitating cash crunch, an acute shortage of electricity and water, infrastructure breakdown as well as massive retrenchments.

The Retrenchment Board approved at least 400 applications from various companies to downsize their staff within the first quarter of this year.

According to a recent government gazette, more than 150 companies have been struck off the register with many more facing threat of closure.

A July 2013 National Social Security Authority (Nssa) Harare Regional Employer Closures and Registrations Report for the period July 2011 to July 2013 shows 711 companies in Harare closed down, rendering 8 336 individuals jobless.

Source : Zimbabwe Independent

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