Daniel NemukuyuÂ Senior Court Reporter
THE Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC has been ordered to reinstate its director-general, Mr Toendepi Shonhe, and 16 other workers fired last year on allegations that they were linked to Tendai Bitiâs Renewal Team.
An arbitrator last week ruled that the dismissal of the 17 was unlawful and that it amounted to unfair labour practice on the part of the âlabour partyâ.
Mr Tsvangiraiâs party has the option of paying agreed damages to the 17 if it does not want to reinstate them.
The operational part of the arbitrary award reads:
âIt is hereby ordered that the claim of unfair dismissal is upheld and I order that the respondent (MDC-T) reinstate the claimants with full salary and benefits from the date of the unfair dismissal. If the employment relationship is no longer tenable, damages as mutually agreed between the parties, in lieu of reinstatement. Parties may submit themselves for quantification of damages if not resolved.â
However, the arbitrator ordered the 17 workers to meet the cost of the arbitration process.
Professor Lovemore Madhuku of Matsikidze and Mucheche law firm, represented the workers while MDC-T was represented by its human resources director.
The 17 were employed by MDC-T in various capacities with some working in the security, international relations, directorate and national organising sections of the political party.
The labour dispute arose in May last year when factionalism and political violence rocked MDC-T.
Harvest House, where the 17 operated from, literally became a no-go area as all officials believed to be aligned to Mr Biti and Mr Elton Mangoma were being attacked.
The workers said they feared visiting Harvest House resulting in the employer marking them absent.
It was also the workersâ claim that the party was also no longer paying them at the time.
When the workers were fired, no disciplinary proceedings were conducted.
The workers now claim their bonuses for 2013 and salary arrears from February last year to date, being the time when they were on an unlawful dismissal.
However, MDC-T dismissed as false the claims that the situation at Harvest House was intimidating at the time in question.
The party added that its then acting secretary-general, Dr Tapiwa Mashakada, once wrote to the workers asking them to return to work but they refused.
MDC-T argued that the actions of the workers amounted to voluntary resignation and that the party could not constructively dismiss them.
The party, instead, wants the workers to pay it sums amounting to three monthsâ salary for each employee as compensation for âresigning without noticeâ.
One of the workers who spoke to The Herald on condition of anonymity described the MDC-T as the worst employer.
âLabour-based political parties like MDC-T are the worst employers because they do not practise what they preach,â he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Tsvangiraiâs Strathaven house and 62 party vehicles face attachment over failure to pay off $491 760 in labour damages to 13 other party employees who were unlawfully dismissed in 2010.
The employees worked in the security department at the partyâs Harvest House headquarters.
The 13 security personnel were unfairly dismissed and allegedly went home without any benefits under unclear circumstances.
Arbitrator Mr Duncan Mudzengi ruled the dismissal of the workers was unfair and that they should be paid damages and other outstanding allowances.
Two of the workers were awarded $48 260 each, while 11 others got $38 440 each.
The awards took into account the position held by each worker and the period of employment in the party.
Some were engaged as far back as 1999 when the MDC-T was launched, while others were employed in 2002 and 2005 respectively.
After working for several years at Harvest House, the workers were shocked to be informed of the termination of their contracts in 2010.
Early 2013, MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai clashed with a former researcher in his office, Mr Douglas Munakira, over unfair labour practices.
Mr Munakira, who was a research officer with the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe, cited the then Prime Ministerâs Office and Mr Tsvangirai as parties to the labour dispute.
He argued that the PMâs Office unfairly treated him to an extent that he resigned citing unfair labour practices. He argued that the office owed him $9 300, a figure that accrued from underpayment of his monthly salary over three years of employment.
He resigned citing ill-treatment, but the parties clashed on the amount due to him.
Mr Munakira wanted $9 300, while IDAZIM offered him $2 000, but he ended up taking the offer after considering the financial challenges he was facing while out of employment.
The matter had been referred to conciliation, but the parties later opted for an out-of-court settlement.