21 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Tongaat Hulett Workers Take Dispute to Court

Tongaat Hulett Sugar subsidiaries Triangle Limited, Hippo Valley, Mwenezana and Mkwasine Estates workers protesting over the decision to bar them from joining a union of their choice have taken their dispute to the Labour Court. The Ango-American owned company is deducting US$5 per month and remitting it to a union the workers refused to join.

The workers renounced their membership with the Zimbabwe Sugar Milling Industry Workers' Union arguing that it was not fully representing them and constantly raising subscriptions.

The dispute has been raging since 2010 when the workers indicated that they had joined the Sugar Production and Milling Workers' Union.

In heads of argument filed by the workers' lawyer, Advocate Caleb Mucheche, the Registrar of Labour in the Ministry of Labour and Social Services, Mrs Nelia Simango, refused to register SPMWU despite having more than 4 000 members. The workers submitted that in this regard, Mrs Simango misdirected herself and erred at law by failing to conduct herself in terms of Section 45 of the Labour Act (Chapter 28:08).

"Mrs Simango refused to register a trade union of the workers' choice with more than 4 000 members, yet her office has registered trade unions with less than 400 members," it was submitted.

"She even registered a second trade union (Sugar Milling and Allied Workers' Union) in the industry with far less membership and held that 'employees have two trade unions to choose from'."

The workers argued that this leads to reasonable suspicion of mala fides on the part of Tongaat Hulett Sugar, which has continued to administer the check-off system on behalf of ZSMIWU and remitting their contributions.

They argued that other organisations like the National Railways of Zimbabwe and Zesa Holdings had up to four unions each with a membership of less than 600.

Also submitted were the reasons by Mrs Simango for refusing to register the SPMWU.

"There is need to pay due consideration to the need to limit the number of entities the employer negotiates with.

"The addition of another trade union would not add any value to the industry at the moment. On the basis of the observations, application for the registration of SPMWU is declined," said Mrs Simango.

The workers argued that employees have to register trade unions to choose from which guarantees that they have representation.

The disgruntled Tongaat Hulett Sugar workers initially sought the intervention of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr Didymus Mutasa, to stop deductions from their salaries.

However, Minister Mutasa referred the matter to Zanu-PF secretary for labour and production Mr Dzikamai Mavhaire, who is yet to intervene in the impasse.

Copyright © 2013 The Herald. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.