Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
Air Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd will have to wait a little longer to know its fate after the Supreme Court yesterday reserved judgment in a matter in which the airline is challenging the Labour Court ruling compelling it to reinstate or pay damages to over 300 fired workers.
The workers had their contracts unlawfully terminated on three months’ notice in 2015.
The matter brought to the fore a fundamental question whether the Labour Court in confirmation proceedings can substitute its own decision with that of a labour officer.
The labour officer issued a declaration that Airzim cannot terminate employment contracts on three months notice.
Aggrieved by the decision of the labour officer, Airzim approached the Labour Court on appeal.
It argued that the court came up with its own decision and ruled that the workers had been unfairly dismissed and it proceeded to order their reinstatement or that they be paid damages.
The airline argued that the lower court made a grievous error of law.
Further, Air Zimbabwe contends that the Labour Court does not have the command to substitute its own decision with that of the labour officer.
The importance of this case is that it will clarify the powers of the labour officers and how the Labour Court can deal with the decisions of labour officers.
This is one of the issues that has arisen because of the Amendment No. 5 of the Labour Act, which radically changed the law around termination on notices.
In September 2017, Labour Court judge Ms Emilia Muchawa found that although Airzim ended the contracts in the spirit of the infamous Zuva Petroleum judgment of July 17, 2015, Section 24 of the Finance Act Number 8 of 2015, gave retrospective effect to the Labour Amendment Act, Number 5 of 2015.
The Labour Amendment Act, through Section 12(4a), outlawed arbitrary termination of employment on notice and set the limitations in which such cessation should be done.
The new law only allows dissolution on notice in circumstances where one is employed on a fixed contract basis or has consented to the termination of contract.