Zimbabwe: Millers Bargaining Deal On Hold

The Grain Millers Employers Association of Zimbabwe (GMEAZ) has been granted a provisional order staying registration of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed two months ago and blocked the Small to Medium Millers Association of Zimbabwe (SMMAZ) from partaking in the negotiations on behalf of employers.

The ruling comes after GMEAZ approached the High Court on an urgent basis challenging the collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated by the SMMAZ, Milling Industry Workers Union and National Employment Council for the Food and Allied industries in March this year.

Ostensibly, the CBA agreed on new wages and allowances for workers in the milling industry and referred the bargain to the Registrar of Labour for registration without input from the GMEAZ, which represents the largest membership of employers in the milling industry.

The birth of SMMAZ led to a dispute regarding its status on the eve of the collective bargaining negotiations.

The dispute necessitated the verification of its membership before the stakeholders in the sector could meet to commence negotiations.

After hearing arguments from both parties' legal counsel, Justice Siyabona Msithu ruled in favour of the GMEAZ.

He said GMEAZ was entitled to partake in the negotiations as a representative of its membership, noting that the negotiations which gave birth to the CBA now before the registrar of the Labour N.O for registration and gazetting were done without its input.

"The balance of convenience favours the granting of the interim relief," said Justice Msithu.

"The applicant asserts that it represents the majority of the employers in the sector, a claim that was not convincingly refuted by the respondents.

"It is only proper that it be represented in any CBA negotiations whose outcome will bind its membership."

Once the CBA is registered and gazetted, it becomes implementable and Justice Msithu ruled that it has to be complied with by some employers that may not have been represented in its formulation.

On February 7 this year, a meeting which was convened to discuss the sharing of seats to include SMMAZ was deferred to allow the verification of its membership.

The deferral was also meant to verify the statuses of both GMEAZ and SMMAZ, among other things.

In Justice Msithu's view, GMEAZ had managed to show that there was a well-grounded apprehension of irreparable harm if the CBA was registered before the pending issues were resolved.

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