Banks move to block managers’ union; Supreme Court to rule on case

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By Alois Vinga

THE Supreme Court has reserved judgment in a case where the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) is challenging the decision of the Registrar of Labour to register a union representing bank managers.

The Registrar had accepted registration of the Banking and Finance Managers Union of Zimbabwe (BAFMUZ).

However, BAZ is arguing that managers cannot be members of a trade union because they represent the interests of employers.

The appeal has also been lodged despite a Labour Court ruling handed down by Justice Emilia Muchawa on October 16 2015 upholding the legality of BAFMUZ.

In submissions seen by Business, BAZ is premising its argument on Section 45 of the Labour Act which states that a Trade Union shall not represent employers.

“A crucial point in resolving this issue is to look at the definition of a managerial employee in Act. Section 2 defines a managerial employee as an employee whose contract of employment requires or permits him to hire, transfer, promote, suspend, lay off, dismiss, reward or adjudicate the grievances of other employees, or to make recommendation on these matters to the employee.

“In terms of section 45 it is permissible for an employer’s organisation to represent managerial employees in their capacity as employers but the same can never represent the interest of non-managerial employees. The provision does not say that managerial employees are not employees with the result that they cannot form or belong to a trade union,” reads the submission.

BAZ is further contending that managers wear two hats which see them representing the interests of business or capital hence making them employers.

In opposing the appeal, BAFMUZ through Advocate Thabani Mpofu, argued that the title “manager” is based on the employment contract which makes them employees.

He drew the bench to various legal citations and the Constitution’s section 65 which guarantees the unlimited right to freedom of Association while emphasizing the need to define the term employee and stick to its implications.

Mpofu drew the bench to the definition of a Trade Union which defines it as …‘any association or organization formed to represent or advance the interests of any employees or class thereof in respect of their employment.’

Reference to ‘class thereof’ in the definition is of utmost significance as it is a recognition by the legislature of the existence of different classes of employees, in casu that is managerial and non-managerial employees, he said.

He went further and said these two groups of employees has the right to form and to belong to a trade union which advances and further their interests.

Mpofu pointed out that the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe’s does not represent the interests of managerial workers but serves as a forum for the consideration of matters of policy and mutual interest concerning member banks.      

The Supreme Court bench presiding over the matter comprises Justices Marie Anne Gowora, Ben Hlasthwayo and Bharatkumar Patel.