Judgement reserved in Labour Court challenge PDF Print E-mail

The Labour Court has reserved judgement in the case in which the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) is asking the court to compel government to rescind its decision to cancel or delay vacation leave for teachers and reinstate days taken away from teachers who had been granted leave.

 

Created: 30 March 2016

 

The highly anticipated matter which could have far reaching repercussions on labour relations in the country was heard before a bench of three Labour Court judges, Justices Bridgette Chibizhe, Emilia Muchawa and Betty Chidziva who advised the parties that they would be notified by the Registrar once a decision has been made.

ZIMTA, through its legal team led by Munyaradzi Gwisayi of Munyaradzi Gwisayi and Partners argued that the unilateral cancellation of vacation leave and subsequent recalling of teachers who had applied and been granted such leave is unconstitutional and violates the teachers’ crucial right to rest as prescribed for in the Public Service Act.

Gwisayi urged the court to declare the circular enforcing the government directive as null and void arguing that the cancellation was done without consultation with the registered trade unions representing teachers. He also called on the court to compel the government to reinstate the affected teachers’ leave days and prioritise collective bargaining.

Appearing for the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Ephraim Mukucha of the Civil Division of the Attorney General’s office argued that Section 19 of the Public Service Act empowered the government to alter leave conditions adding that the decision was taken in the best interests of the pupils who would have gone for three months without teachers.

He said government is going through financial difficulties hence could not afford to pay  “people enjoying life somewhere” while at the same time paying for their replacements adding that teachers have three months every year to rest (school holidays).

However, Gwisayi insisted that the cancellation without consultation was unconstitutional citing a previous case in which the court held that “where a decision is to be arrived at that affect some substantive benefit, advantage or benefit or that adversely affects a person’s rights, the person concerned must be heard first before the decision is taken.”

He castigated the government lawyers for trivializing the teachers’ work by insinuating that teachers get to rest during the holidays calling on them to consider the planning, research and preparation that is undertaken before teaching can take place.

Gwisayi further dismissed the respondents’ argument that the decision was taken by the cabinet during school holidays hence consultation was difficult as flimsy considering that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary education is in constant interaction with the teachers’ representatives.

He said the unilateralism enjoyed under the authoritarian systems of the past in which employees did not have rights no longer existed under the new constitution adding that if this decision is allowed to stand it could have ripple effects across all sectors of the economy as happened with the Zuva Petroleum case.

With the case reserved it means the judges need time to review the arguments presented by both parties and to go through precedent cases that would have been cited by any of the two parties. The maximum waiting period is usually three months and a judgement could be handed anytime within this period. Once the judgement is ready the two parties will be invited for its reading.

 

 

 

 

 

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