FAST moving consumer goods manufacturer, Olivine Industries, which recently laid off nearly a third of its employees, has temporarily rescinded the plan after workers opposed the move and now seeks to effect the job cuts next month.
It emerged the company had unlawfully excluded employees in negotiations for retrenchment package, sources indicated.
Olivine’s acting general manager, Sam Madondo, had advised affected workers of the company’s intention to lay them off at the end of last month, citing financial difficulties and a change of the company’s business model, which he said resulted in some roles becoming redundant.
The affected workers engaged lawyer Lovemore Madhuku to challenge the retrenchment, resulting in the re-engagement of the workers. Madhuku yesterday confirmed the development to The Financial Gazette.
Instead of negotiating with the affected workers, Olivine management negotiated with the workers committee, resulting in workers getting retrenchment packages they believed were not commensurate with their periods of service.
In a letter dated August 30, 2017 written by Madhuku to Olivine’s acting chief executive officer, Sylvester Mangani, the labour and constitutional law expert threatened to take the matter to court for “appropriate relief” if the company went ahead with the retrenchment.
“My instructions are that you have served my clients with a letter dated 31 July, 2017 and entitled ‘Notice of intention to retrench in terms of section 12C of the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01)’,” wrote Madhuku.
“In the aforesaid letter, you have advised my clients that their last day of work is 31 August 2017. You have also indicated that the necessary consultations and negotiations will be by the Works Council. The Works Council has purportedly concluded negotiations. My clients were not involved in the negotiations,” Madhuku wrote.
“I write to advise that all your actions are unlawful. Employees proposed for retrenchment cannot be represented by the workers’ committee for the negotiations contemplated in section 12C of the Labour Act. Nor can the Works Council do any such negotiations on behalf of employees proposed for retrenchment. The employees proposed for retrenchment must represent themselves. Accordingly, my clients do not accept your proposed retrenchment package.”
He said his clients were still Olivine’s employees beyond August 31 2017.
“If you still intend to retrench in future you must follow the law. I have that instruction to approach the courts for an appropriate relief if you ignore the contents of this letter,” said Madhuku.
Mangani admitted failure to follow proper procedures and immediately suspended the retrenchment process.
He, however, has given the affected employees a one month window to the end of this month to renegotiate their packages.
Mangani has now advised the employees to bring their own representatives to the negotiation table.
He emphasised that in the event that the parties failed to agree, the matter would be referred to the retrenchment board for determination.
“Following representations from (Lovemore) Madhuku lawyers on your behalf, the company hereby revokes the letter of intention to retrench you dated 31 July and in its place gives you notice of intention to retrench you from Olivine Industries effective October 1 2017,” said Mangani.
“The notice period will run from September 1, 2017 to September 30, 2017 and it is during this month that all internal retrenchment processes will take place and be finalised, failing which the matter will be referred to the retrenchment board before the end of September 2017.
“In preparation for the Works Council meeting scheduled for September 5 2017, take note of the following: The Company is offering the retrenchment package as set out in Section 12C of the Labour Act, that is, one month’s basic salary for every year served and thereof. May you advise the human resources manager whether you will represent yourself or nominate worker representative of your choice that will represent you before the Works Council and the name where appropriate. Please feel free to consult the undersigned to discuss the contents of this letter.”
Mangani could not be reached for comment by the time of going to print. His mobile number went unanswered. He also did not respond to messages.