Zimbabwe's Supreme Court on Monday ruled that employers are not obliged to pay workers housing, school fees and other allowances unless they were part of an existing collective bargaining agreement signed by parties to the contract.
The ruling comes after a seven-year outstanding dispute between the National Railways of Zimbabwe and its workers.
The dispute over the years moved from the labor office to the arbitrator, the labor court and eventually the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Justices Venanda Ziyambi, Elizabeth Gwaunza and Antonia Guvava unanimously ruled that the court could not impose conditions on negotiated contracts.
Justice Ziyambi said in her judgement, both the labor court and the arbitrator ought to have found that the allowances, not having been negotiated by the parties and therefore not forming part of their collective bargaining agreement, were not a right or entitlement for appropriation by the respondents.
General Secretary Kenneth Nhemachena of the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railway Workers Union told VOA that the NRZ workers’ situation is desperate for shop floor workers.
“The ruling is very unfair because there are many at the NRZ who are getting these benefits,” he said.
“Supervisors also and other grades are being given those same allowances that the Supreme Court says we should not be given. It’s sad really.”
NRZ Acting General Manager Lewis Mukwandi told parliament last month that the company suffered a cumulative deficit of $17 million for the five months to May as revenue income for the period was $44 million against expenditure of $61 million.