Lumwana employees sue company for breach of contract

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THREE employees of Lumwana Mining have sued the mining firm in the Solwezi High Court for their constructive dismissal when it breached their contractual term and conditions of employment.

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Benny Mbindo, Brandon Chilongo and Paul Mkandawire who were employed as senior investigators are seeking damages for their constructive dismissals, payment for their leave days, and early retirement at a rate of three months for each year they worked for the mine.

According to their affidavit in support of notice filed before the industrial division, the trio said it was employed on a permanent and pensionable basis by the mine.

They said pursuant to clause 18.1 of the terms and conditions of employment for Senior Staff, they were entitled to four weeks long service leave after having worked for the company for a continuous period of 10 years.

Mbindo , Chilongo and Mkandawire stated that payment for the Long Service Leave package was to be calculated at the annual salary rate applicable immediately before the commencement of the leave.

The three said that upon attaining 10 years of service with the company they were not granted the four week’s Long Service Leave, but instead they were just paid a one month’s basic salary.

They stated that having noted that a serious term of the contract had been breached by the
company when it failed to abide by the provisions of the Terms and Conditions of
Employment for Senior Staff, some resigned from employment.

They are seeking a declaration that the company’s failure to grant the Complainants four weeks Long Service Leave and failure to pay long service leave package at the annual salary rate was a fundamental breach of the terms and conditions of the employment contracts which amounted to an adverse alteration of the employment terms and conditions entitling the complainants to go on early or voluntary retirement.

Mbindo is demanding K260,167.2 being, the Long Service Leave Pay calculated at an annual gross salary rate applicable immediately prior to the commencement of Long Service Leave, less K33,564.18 already paid to the complainant.

Chilongo wants K10,729,838.4 being, the Long
Service Leave Pay calculated at an annual gross salary rate applicable immediately prior to the commencement of Long Service Leave, less K60,355.39 which was already paid.

Mkandawire is claiming K9,154,771.2 being, the Long Service Leave Pay calculated at an annual gross salary rate applicable immediately prior to the commencement of Long Service Leave, less K53,097.6 which was already paid to.

The trio wants an order for payment for early or voluntary retirement package at the rate of three months per each year served with the company.

They are also seeking general damages for breach of contract.

In is answer to the complaint Lumwana mine argued that it did not breach any contractual term and condition of the Complainants’
employment.

“Clause 18.1 of the Terms and Conditions of Employment for Senior Staff provides that the Respondent can make payments in lieu of the four (4) week’s Long Service Leave paid at the annual salary rate applicable immediately prior to
commencement of leave,” The mine said.

It said since the Long Service Leave is four weeks or approximately 26 days, the annual salary rate an employee is entitled to, as payment in lieu of the leave days, is one month basic salary.

It said that that acting in compliance with Clause 18.1 of the complainants Terms and Conditions, and at the request of the Complainants, it paid each of the Complainants, their entitlement of
one month basic salary.

Lumwana said it complied with the Terms and Conditions of Employment for Senior Staff and it did not breach any contractual terms.

“The respondent attempted to clear the misunderstanding of the computation of the
Long Serve Leave by explaining to the Complainant that the rate contemplated in
Clause 18.1 of their Terms and Conditions is one (1) month’s basic salary,” Lumwana said.

“The Complainants’ computations of the Long Service Leave pay is misconceived and thereby leading them to the exorbitant amounts.”

It said Chilongo was not constructively
dismissed as he resigned voluntarily on November 9, 2023 and there was no breach of contract at all.

Lumwana added that the complainants are not entitled to any of the reliefs sought as their claims against the mine lack merit.

By Mwaka Ndawa

Kalemba February 26, 2024.

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