Steward Bank sued over employee contracts
– November 7, 2017
The Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers’ Union (Zibawu) has taken the Strive Masiyiwa-owned Steward Bank to court for alleged unfair labour practices after the financial institution engaged 92 workers as volunteers and independent contractors in contravention of the Constitution.
BY CHARLES LAITON
Zibawu filed the court challenge through its lawyer, Lovemore Madhuku, citing Steward Bank as the respondent.
The union’s assistant secretary-general, Shepard Ngandu, claimed that sometime in 2014, Steward Bank decided not to renew fixed-term employment contracts for hundreds of its employees, but resorted to a practice whereby workers were signed off as volunteers while providing exactly the same services as before.
Ngandu said the banks’ approach was meant to circumvent the Labour Act and that the so-called “independent contractors and volunteers” were employees within the contemplation of the Labour Act.
In his affidavit, Ngandu said the bank’s employees were members of the union and had been rendering services to the financial institution in terms of signed agreements that were at the core of the application.
“Among first applicants’ members (Zibawu) are 92 workers employed by the respondent (Steward Bank) in various capacities, some of whom are working under contracts in the form reflected in Annexures 3 and 4,” he said.
“In this application, the first applicant is seeking to protect the rights and interests of its members within the contemplation of the Labour Act as read with section 65 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
Ngandu further said Steward Bank employees intended to file complaints of unfair labour practices with the labour officers in terms of section 93 of the Labour Act and the current application would determine whether or not they should proceed in terms of the aforesaid section.
“The straightforward manner of engaging workers is by entering into a contract of employment. It is the contract of employment that is regulated by the Labour Act . . . independent contractors fall outside the purview of the Labour Act,” he said.
Ngandu also said in terms of the country’s legislative policy, labour services by vulnerable individuals could only be provided in a contract of employment, adding “there can be no scope for a state of affairs where ordinary vulnerable individuals are said to be providing vital services required by an employer in the capacity of independent contractors or as volunteers”.
The matter is yet to be set down for hearing.