Workers win big in court battle over employment terms

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By MAUREEN KAKAH
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The Employment and Labour Relations Court has granted reprieve for workers of a shoe firm after it ordered that they should be employed on permanent terms.

Justice Matthew Nduma Nderi ruled that since the 169 workers belong to union and have a recognized Collective Bargaining Agreement, their employer, Bata, should not deny them their lawful right.

They have worked on renewable contract for five years.

Justice Nderi said that the company violates the workers’ right if it insists on employing the unionsable employees on a fixed term contract.

“In conclusion, the grievants who are still in employment of Bata, provided are unionisable must be converted from fixed term contract to permanent and pensionable term, the court orders accordingly,” Justice Nderi ruled.

The dispute between the workers and their employer in their quest to get better jobs started in 2014.

They took their complain before the Minister for Labour and Human Resource Development as required by law.

But the ministry was unable to settle the dispute which saw the matter taken to court.

According to the workers, they claimed that they have a genuine CBA hence demanded to be made permanent employees once and for all instead of working on renewable contractual terms.

But their employer had argued that they were under probation and also working on fixed term contracts which are renewable.

The company also claimed that it is merely a factory business with seasonal demands of labour and therefore only do well during back-to-school period when it requires additional employees due to huge demand.

The company had claimed that, also, in the rainy season there is usually a demand for plastic shoes and gumboots.

Whilst they argued that this is the justification of employing personnel on fixed term contracts considering that they are remunerated competitively and comparatively for work done, the judge dismissed these claims.

“Provided the CBA herein is in place, Bata violates its terms when it employs a unionisable employee on a fixed term contract, nothing justifies a breach of contract between the parties unless the justification is an express term of the contract,” Justice Nderi ruled.

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