Arda appeals against reinstatement of 451 workers

HARARE - Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) has appealed against a Labour Court ruling ordering the firm to reinstate its 451 retrenched workers.

The workers were employed by Arda in Middle Sabi and Chisumbanje estates, before the company courted an investor called Macdom and Rating Investments (Pvt) Ltd, which took over the running of the two entities at the beginning of March 2009.

The workers were formally advised of the changes regarding the two estates.

In April of the same year, it is alleged the workers were advised they would get retrenchment packages.

The two parties, however, had a disagreement on how the retrenchment packages would be computed.

In July 2009, Arda started paying off terminal benefits to the workers, but allegedly failed to listen to concerns raised by the employees on how the payments should be effected.

The workers claimed the payments were not according to a schedule they had submitted and was based on a 2008 salary structure, leading to a legal battle.

Arda approached the Supreme Court after Labour Court president Betty Chidziva ruled in favour of the workers in December 2010.

The employees had appealed against an arbitrator’s judgment, clearing the company of any wrongdoing.

Arda, which is represented by Lewis Uriri, appealed against the ruling, arguing Chidziva misdirected himself, considering that there was only one applicant before her, whose authority to represent the other workers was not established.

“The court a quo erred in finding that the respondents were retrenched by the appellant, notwithstanding the fact that the negotiations between the parties only commenced after the respondents had already been transferred to the new employer,” Arda said.

It further said that the Labour Court ruling did not address the issue of other payments that had already been effected to the workers.

Deputy chief justice Luke Malaba and Judges Ben Hlatshwayo and Antonia Guvava, postponed the matter indefinitely yesterday, to allow the workers’ lawyer Thabani Mpofu to file heads of argument.

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