By Fidelis Munyoro
Gateway High School’s attempt to fire four teachers on three months’ notice on the grounds of Government’s withdrawal of funding to private schools failed after the teachers won a labour dispute for reinstatement.
There is an option to negotiate for packages with the teachers – Gloria Papaya, Nancy Nyemwererai, Blessing Chitsato and James Chikadaya.
The teachers had their employment contracts terminated on three months notice following Government’s withdrawal of funding to all trust and private schools.
The quartet and the school failed to resolve the matter at conciliation, resulting in the case being referred to the labour office for determination.
A labour officer only identified as Ms Mudimu ruled that the termination was unprocedural and nullified it.
“The respondent (Gateway High School) is ordered to reinstate the applicants (the four teachers) without any loss of pay and benefits,” said Ms Mudimu.
“If reinstatement is found not to be an option, parties should negotiate on separation packages with due diligence to the legal processes and provisions as enshrined in the Labour Act.”
The labour dispute started on March 4 last year, when the school wrote to Papaya, Nyemwererai, Chitsato and Chikadaya advising them that their names had been surrendered to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education for redeployment.
The school was acting on the Government decision to withdraw funding to private schools and recalling all Government teachers in private schools for redeployment.
The quartet also got letters of recall from the ministry, but they all refused being surrendered to Government.
Through their lawyer, Mr Joel Mambara of J. Mambara and Partners, the four argued that they were not on secondment to the private school, but were recruited outright.
It was also argued that when Government withdrew funding and offered to redeploy them, Gateway should have simply ditched them and ignored their contracts.
The school, which was represented by Dube, Manikai and Hwacha law firm, argued that the teachers had no case against the school.
The lawyers argued that the proceedings were fundamentally flawed and defective because the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education had not been cited as a party.
It was argued on behalf of the school that the teachers were only seconded or laterally transferred from Government.
Government, argued the school lawyers, recalled the teachers saying the action confirmed that Government had no doubt that the four were its employees.
In her ruling, Ms Mudimu found the four were employees of the school not Government because the salaries they were getting were a benefit, in addition to their total remuneration.
Ms Mudimu said the four signed individual employment contracts, which originated from the school with detailed terms and conditions of employment that included probation period, remuneration and normal retirement age