Dar hotel ordered to refund employees’ salaries  

THE High Court’s Labour Division has ordered the Southern Sun Hotel Limited to pay her 44 employees 80 per cent of their basic salaries, which were cut during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Judge Augustine Rwizile gave orders after allowing an application for revision lodged by the employees, the applicants, to oppose the Award issued by the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration (CMA) in favour of the Hotel Company, the respondent.

He noted that the deduction from the applicants’ salary started from April to November, 2021 which is eight months in total and that all applicants had salary cuts for that period without justification.

“The same should be paid their 80 per cent as from April, 2021 to November, 2021. This application therefore, has merit. The CMA award is hereby, quashed and set aside. Since this is the labour matter, I order no costs to either party,” the judge said in a ruling delivered recently in Dar es Salaam.

He revisited the evidence tendered by the parties before the CMA and was satisfied that there was a contract establishing employment relationship between the two parties. It was the position of the judge that the applicants, therefore, were employees of the respondent.

The judge further noted that there was no dispute that 80 per cent of the applicants’ salary was cut due to Covid-19, but there was no evidence that the salary cut was a product of common understanding.

“In actual fact, there was no consultation and to the applicants the decision came by surprise. Both parties are not in dispute of this fact. Basing on the evidence, the respondent alone decided to deduct the salaries of the applicants by 80 per cent,” he said.

The judge went on observing from the evidence tendered that the respondent decided by herself on the amount to be deducted from the applicant’s salaries without any consultation and that the applicants were only informed in the meeting of the decision taken.

“I think, employees were entitled to be heard on the matter before the decision was forced on to them. It is a trite law that parties are bound by their agreement,” he said.

The judge meant that in any situation, be it financial constraints, Covid-19 or both, the respondent had to consult the applicants, discuss the situation and then come to new terms precipitated by the current situation. In doing so, he said, the laws and procedure would have been complied with.

During hearing of the labour dispute, one witness for the respondent had testified that the contract with the applicant had a reduction clause that when production falls, some decision should be made by the respondent.

In his ruling, however, the judge pointed out that given the circumstances, it was the duty of the respondent to prove that such terms existed as the law provides.

“Above all, there was no contract tendered to show the terms. From the foregoing, there is no justification in my view, to have the applicants’ salary cut by 80 per cent,” he said.

The applicants were employed by the respondent and were paid on monthly basis. Contrary to their employment contract, on April 27, 2020, following Covid-19 pandemic, the applicants received a salary cut of 80 percent each from their basic salary and were ordered to work from home.

Having not being happy with the salary cuts without prior information, the applicants filed a labour dispute against the respondent at CMA. The award was in favour of the respondent. After they were aggrieved with such a decision, the applicants knocked doors of the High Court to oppose the Award.

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