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Retrenchment war escalates at Reserve Bank

The move is a new twist to the retrenchment saga after RBZ culled 75% of its workforce last year to concentrate on its core business.

 

The ex-employees thought they had got relief last month after the court granted them their wish on the basis that there was no opposition.

However, RBZ said that it had filed opposing papers and lawyers of the two parties consented to the order being set aside.

The adjudication process is now set for this week as the lawyers of the two parties have agreed to see the president of the Labour Court, this paper was told on Friday.

The interim relief sought by the employees would, if given, result in the bank paying them salaries and benefits backdated to July last year.

According to an agreement which blessed the retrenchment exercise, RBZ promised to pay the retrenched workers their full packages by June 30 last year.

In its application, the former workers said their plight has become so dire that they cannot meet the basic requirements such as food, shelter and clothing.

 

Former RBZ workers said they cannot pay debts for loans taken in anticipation of payment and cannot meet medical and educational expenses.

They argued that they have been driven into perpetual worry, anxiety and depression and some have developed ailments associated with stress including high blood pressure and ulcers.

The application said the majority of the former employees have become impoverished and their plight is a typical humanitarian crisis where the fall into unemployment has resulted in instant impoverishment and destitution.

It said that “if a humanitarian crisis like the situation in which we find ourselves does not qualify for urgent deliberation then nothing can.”

It also said that if the former employees were on the bank’s payroll, RBZ would have paid them by now.

In its notice of opposition, RBZ lawyers argued that the justice of this case does not require the reinstatement of the former workers and payment of their backdated salaries to July 2011 as “doing so is not competent at law because there is no unlawful termination of employment”.

RBZ said the former workers cannot refer to their problem as a humanitarian one, as it is economic in nature and is one problem that almost every Zimbabwean is going through considering that the economy is on a recovery path after years of being swept by the tide of inflation.

The retrenchment was hailed as the central bank’s first step towards normalcy after it had steeped itself in activities that fall in the realms of the Ministry of Finance as the custodians of fiscal policies.

As part of the agreement reached in January last year, the former workers were paid US$5 000 each and RBZ promised to pay the packages in two installments: March 31 and on June 30 2011.

On March 31, RBZ gave the former workers US$5 000 each and promised to clear the amounts in June. When June came, RBZ had no money and again gave them US$5 000 each and said it would pay once the disposal of its non-core assets was completed. This infuriated the former workers who approached the Labour Court.

An arbitral award issued on September 16 last year ordered the bank to pay all outstanding dues immediately and pay compensation of 5% per annum as a penalty for delaying payments.

RBZ appealed against the award and said that it was able to pay the outstanding packages within a period of 18 months from the date of the order.
The bank said that would pay the costs of the suit.

The former employees filed an application to register the award as an order of High Court so that the bank could be held in contempt of a court order. RBZ opposed the application and the matter is pending at the courts.

The former employees said that the bank was determined to stop any enforcement of payment of packages and hence their approach to the Labour Court to be given temporary relief to be put back on payroll until finalisation of the retrenchment packages.

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