600 WORKERS DRAG NSSA TO COURT OVER BONUS | Nearly 600 National Social Security Authority (NSSA) employees have taken the authority to the High Court seeking to compel it to pay them their annual bonus for 2016.
Last year, NSSA did not pay out bonuses, arguing that the 13th cheque is not a right but a privilege that can only be enjoyed at the discretion of the employer. However, NSSA workers, through Mr Caleb Mucheche of Matsikidze and Mucheche Legal Practitioners, contend that the authority’s employment conditions of service expressly state that annual bonuses are a right.
To that end, the lawyers want the company’s board to be ordered to define the terms for the payment of annual bonuses to workers within a week of the granting of the court order. Clause 32 of the NSSA Employment Conditions of Service relied upon by the workers reads: “Authority employees SHALL be paid annual bonus per terms defined by the Board from time to time.”
In the court application filed at the High Court recently, the employees argue that though the board can exercise its discretion on definition of bonus terms, the issue of payment of the annual bonus was in fact an obligation.
“It is an express and peremptory provision of the respondent’s conditions of service as stipulated in terms of Clause 32 of the National Social Security Authority Employment Conditions of Service that the respondent shall pay its employees annual bonus as per the terms defined by the Board from time to time,” reads the founding affidavit of an employee, Mr Rodwell Jariremombe.
On December 5 last year, NSSA general manager Ms Liz Chitiga issued a memorandum outlining the authority’s decision not to pay the 2016 annual bonus owing to a weak financial position. But the workers argued that NSSA was in good financial health.
“In the absence of any court order declaring the respondent to be insolvent, it logically follows that the respondent is financially healthy and hence must comply with its mandatory obligation to pay the applicants their 2016 annual bonus.
“The respondent’s healthy financial status is further confirmed by the chairman’s 2017 first quarter and 2016 last quarter reports, which contain several financial ventures and investments by the respondent and payment of bonus to pensioners,” reads part of the affidavit. Since the parties have different interpretations to Clause 32 of the conditions of service, the lawyers argued that the court should issue a declaratory order spelling out the correct legal position.
“In light of the contention by the respondent that its Board had the discretion to award its employees their annual bonus in terms of Clause 32 of the respondent’s conditions of service, and the applicants, on the other side, contend that the same provision entitles them to be paid bonus as peremptory right, there is need for a declaratory order from this honourable court to shed proper light to both parties on the true legal import of the contentious aforesaid Clause 32,” the workers argue.