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Pensioners drag former employer to court

by Fairness Moyana
13 Jun 2014 at 06:59hrs | Views
Part of the 100 former Hwange Colliery Company workers leave Hwange magistrate’s courts after filing their papers challenging their eviction from the company houses yesterday (Picture by Fairness Moyana)

HWANGE Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) pensioners have dragged their former employer to court challenging their eviction from the company houses.

The former workers were ordered to vacate the company houses last week, a move they view as "illegal" arguing that the ailing mining giant owes them a lot of money in terminal benefits.

About 100 disgruntled pensioners could be seen milling outside the court waiting to be addressed by their lawyer, Christopher Sila on Wednesday.

The pensioners approached the court after HCCL ordered them to vacate company houses that it wants to allocate to its workers.

"The applicants hereby apply to this honourable court that respondent (HCCL) be ordered to refrain from evicting the applicant and its families from the Colliery premises in which the applicants reside until finalisation of this matter," said the workers in their affidavit.

The pensioners vowed to stay put until they are paid all their outstanding money. They said they had not received their notice payment, supplementary gratuity and service gratuity in accordance with the company's employee rules and conditions of service as read together with the mining industry collective bargaining agreement.

"Respondent (HCCL) is withholding pension funds contributions deducted from applicants which were supposed to be remitted to the Mining Industry Pension Fund," reads the affidavit.

"Instead of negotiating payment, respondent threatened applicants using its internal police forcefully evicting applicants. Applicants have found no joy in the exercise carried illegally by respondent pending payment of terminal dues agreed upon at a meeting held on November 19, 2013 between applicants, representatives and respondent."

The pensioners through their labour representative, Sila, who is also the vice president of the National Union of Mine Federation of Trade Unions, accused the company of being insensitive to their plight.

They said HCCL was violating labour laws and accused management of having double standards after the mine approached the Hwange magistrate's courts to enforce the evictions before conclusion of negotiations on their terminal benefits.

"Hwange Colliery was trying to by-pass the proper legal process as guided by the law. We were discussing with the company on the issue of benefits but suddenly the company makes a U-turn and demands our eviction which is not fair at all. This shows the respondent's double standards in this whole exercise," said Sila.

He said the judgment on the matter had been reserved for today saying the delay was caused by late submission of papers by 40 pensioners who now stay in the rural areas after being ordered to vacate the company houses.

Sila urged the company to act humanly given the former workers' many years of loyal service to the company. The company owes its workers around $12 million in unpaid salaries and recently the government blocked management from retrenching half of its 3,500 workforce. The company also owes other service providers up to $10 million. The case is before Labour Court Judge Hebert Mlotshwa.

HCCL corporate affairs advisor Burzil Dube could not comment on the matter. He said: "I am not aware of that development. I will check it for you," he said.

Source - Chronicle