MAAMBA Collieries Limited has argued that the case in which its 52 former employees who were retrenched over 20 years ago have sued it for payment of more than K6 million pension dues, is statute barred.
(A statute barred legal action is one which cannot be brought to trial in a civil court because too much time has passed.)
The company has further argued that the action by the 52 is res judicata (a matter that has been adjudicated by a competent court and therefore may not be pursued further by the same parties).
In this matter, James Chinene and 51 others want the Lusaka High Court to order Maamba Collieries Limited to pay them K6,182,620.69 being total pension dues they are each entitled.
They also want interest, damages and costs.
But in its defence, Maamba Collieries Limited admitted that the 52 were its former employees who were retrenched in 1998, but that the issue of their dues was determined in its favour by the Supreme Court in a matter between Kennedy Kapalu and 340 others Vs it, and in the High Court in Pharaoh Miyoba & others Vs it.
It stated that the Zambia State Insurance Pension Scheme was a voluntary occupational pension scheme.
Maamba Collieries further stated that the retrenched employees were at liberty to collect their pension contributions immediately after retrenchment and that the deductions in respect of pension
contributions was only made from salaries of employees who elected to
join the pension scheme.
It admitted that the Zambia State Insurance Corporation Limited, the fund manager of the pension scheme transferred the pension contributions to its (Maamba Collieries) employees for onward transmission to employees/members, who elected to exit from the pension scheme.
Maamba Collieries Limited stated that the pension contributions of its employees, who elected to exit the pension scheme were paid to the respective employees.
It added that the action by the 52 former employees was res judicata and or statute barred.
In a statement of claim, the plaintiffs had explained that Maamba Collieries Limited was in the business of mining and selling coal.
They added that they were former employees of the said company who were retrenched in 1998 but were not paid their dues.
Chinene and the others stated that upon being employed by Maamba Collieries Limited, they were made to join the Zambia State Insurance Company (ZSIC) Pension Scheme which was a compulsory requirement for all employees.
The plaintiffs stated that they were at the time of the said retrenchment below the age of 55 years, being the age, one qualified to receive his pension contributions.
“The plaintiff salaries were every month of during the subsistence of their employment deducted an amount by the defendant purportedly going to the Pension Scheme as their contributions. The plaintiffs are now 55 years and others above 55 years and are desirous of being paid their pension dues,” read the claim.
The 52 further stated that they wrote to Maamba Collieries Limited but did not receive any response or explanation.
They added that their inquiry with ZSIC pension scheme revealed that the money contributed by them was paid to Maamba Collieries Limited.
Chinene and the 51 others stated that some of the contributions deducted from their salaries for purposes of pension contributions were actually not remitted by Maamba Collieries Limited to the ZSIC pension scheme.
The plaintiffs stated that they were now desirous of being paid their pension monies as they have reached or passed the retirement age but that Maamba Collieries Limited had refused or neglected to pay them their dues.