BREAD maker, Lobel’s Holdings (Private) Limited’s attempt to overturn an arbitral award directing the company to pay a former director almost US$300 000 in salary arrears has hit a snag.
The labour court has dismissed an appeal lodged by Lobel’s, one of the country’s largest and oldest confectionery firms, against an arbitral award delivered about two years ago directing it to pay former resident director David Chiweza US$277 000 in salary arrears.
Chiweza says in September 2010, he entered into an unlimited duration contract of employment with Lobel’s, which tasked him with the responsibility to direct and supervise company policy.
He says in the court papers that over a period of about two years until he left Lobel’s in 2012, the bread maker failed to honour a promise to pay some of the benefits entitled to him.
Chiweza referred the matter for conciliation to allow both sides to find common ground.
Conciliation is a procedure whereby a third party provides assistance to parties in the course of negotiations or when they have reached an impasse.
Arbitrators are empowered to make decisions which dispose of a dispute even though they won’t be acting as a court of law.
In the judgment on the Lobel’s dispute, an arbitrator only identified as Shawatu, ordered the bread maker to pay Chiweza arrears covering the period August 2010 to October 2013.
The arbitrator said Lobel’s failed to prove when the contract of employment had expired.
But the arbitral award prompted Lobel’s to appeal to the labour court.
The case was heard by Justice Betty Chidziva under case number LC/H/12/2016, who said the appeal was devoid of merit.
“The appellant (Lobel’s) failed to avail the letter of resignation by the respondent (Chiweza) and also failed to produce the e-mail where it is alleged that the respondent requested for payment of terminal benefits. There is evidence to the effect that respondent participated in the negotiation of the Scheme of Arrangement that was signed in May 2012.This scheme was supposed to run for 90 days meaning that it would expire in July 2012 and this happens to be the time which respondent says his relationship with appellant expired,” Chidziva said.“Chiweza told the court that the dispute over non-payment of outstanding salaries arose in October 2012 after the appellant indicated that it could not make payments on the outstanding salaries. The appellant, on the other hand, told the court that the dispute arose in 2010 and by 2013 when the report was brought for arbitration the claim had already been prescribed. To that end, therefore, this court finds that the appeal lacks merit. Accordingly, I order as follows; the appeal be and is hereby dismissed with costs,” said Chidziva.
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