26 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Turmoil At Haddon Motors

Haddon Motors is on a collision course with its 66 workers after the company indicated it was embarking on voluntary retrenchment. The workers have refused to sign the "Mutual Agreement to Terminate Employment," citing the poor packages being offered by the company.

Haddon Motors - which is into motor vehicle repairs and service -- is offering a three-month notice pay, relocation allowance and one month salary.

One of the workers who has worked for 33 years is being offered a total package of US$3 100.

The company directors have also indicated to the workers that these packages will only be paid after next year's harmonised general elections.

The workers said yesterday that the position of their employers was that they were possibly anticipating a certain outcome in the election.

"The company has not even sought permission from the Retrenchment Board. We now have legal representation and are willing to take over the company on our own," said a worker who refused to be identified.

Another worker said that they were now being forced to work for a week, and break the following week.

"Any of the directors can come during work time and say to you there is not enough work to be done before dismissing everyone," he said.

"Even if it's in the evening, we'll not be paid for whatever work we had done that day after the dismissal."

On October 19, 2012 the workers' lawyers Mushonga Mutsvairo and Associates wrote to Haddon Motors pointing out that it should have notified the Works Council or the NEC the intention to retrench.

This is in accordance with Retrenchment Regulations Statutory Instrument 186 of 2003.

"In the absence of mutual agreement the matter must go to the Retrenchment Board, which will deal with the matter in terms of Section 12C of the Labour Act Chapter 28:01," wrote the lawyers.

The workers then made a retrenchment package offer that was rejected by the company.

This included six moths pay for loss of work, three months pay for every year served, one month pay for relocation, three months notice pay and pro rata share of annual bonus.

However, the company lawyers Charamba and Partners wrote to Messrs Mushonga Mutsvairo arguing that there had been a misunderstanding on the proposed retrenchment.

"Our client is seeking to mutually terminate the contract of employment with your clients and . . . has made an offer which your clients are entitled to either accept or decline."

Charamba and Partners wrote that the offer was based on the fact that Haddon Motors was insolvent and faced liquidation.

"The creditors' value (including your clients') is estimated at US$1 million, while recoverable (sic) amount from debtors and assets is estimated at US$350 000.

"We hope the letter clears the air and you will advise your clients accordingly. The offer ends on October 24, 2012 at 16:00hrs and should we not hear from you, we will deem the offer to have been declined."

On November 12, Mushonga Mutsvairo and Associates wrote the Old Mitual Pension Fund enquiring about the workers packages and no response had been received to date.

The workers allege that the company was still viable and used to have a distribution contract with General Motors of South Africa, which supplied them with brand new Isuzu trucks.

However, the contract has since been given to Auto World after Haddon Motors allegedly fell short of GM's expectations.

Efforts to get a comment from the company's chairman Mr Stewart Haddon were fruitless as his mobile phone was not reachable.

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