Home » General » Supreme Court Settles Banks Labour Dispute

The Supreme Court has granted an appeal by the Banking Employers’ Association of Zimbabwe (BEAZ) challenging the Labour Court decision forcing the sector to review workers’ salaries based on year-on-year inflation figures.

Justice Antonia Guvava settled the labour dispute pitting BEAZ and the Zimbabwe Bank and Allied Workers’ Union (ZIBAWU).

The Labour Court had last year ruled in favour of the workers’ union. The dispute spilled into the courts after it became apparent that the bone of contention was the interpretation of a certain clause of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

In this case, BEAZ understood the CBA to mean that workers would be awarded a salary increment, which would be in line with the inflation figures for that year, this being to stop any further disputes.

But the workers’ union had a different view that the inflation figure would form the basis of any future negotiations that they would have with the employer.

In her judgment, Justice Guvava who sat with Justices Vernanda Ziyambi and Paddington Garwe, allowed the appeal. She said the inflation figure was to be used during the agreed period to effect all salary increments.

The judge disagreed with the Labour Court’s interpretation of the CBA that was signed by BEAZ and ZIBAWU.

“In my view, the court fell into the error of interpreting one of the provisions of the agreement without taking into account the other provisions of the collective bargaining agreement,” said Justice Guvava.

“In order to give a proper interpretation to the intention of the parties, it was incumbent upon the court to examine the whole agreement and not just to rely on a single word.”

The judge was also of the view that if the parties had intended to introduce other factors in determining future salary reviews they would have stated it in no uncertain terms.

“The fact that they agreed on a unitary yardstick to determine future salary reviews means that they had no intention of introducing other factors which would introduce uncertainty in the determination of the their salary reviews.”

To this end, Justice Guvava found merit in the appeal and set aside the Labour Court decision. This was an incredible case in which the parties to an agreement thankfully affixed their signatures to the CBA and a few months later failed to agree on the interpretation of their own written word. They had to seek the intervention of the court which was not part of the negotiations, to tell them want they meant on their agreement.

Following protracted negotiations, BEAZ and ZIBAWU signed an agreement on June 10, 2011. This was later reduced into a collective bargaining agreement which was subsequently published as Statutory Instrument SI 150 of 2013.

However, when the parties tried to implement the CBA a dispute arose on its interpretation.

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