The deacons, William Vwapu, Clement Mackenzi, Evans Kabamba, Chrissy Mumba and Frank Phiri want the Lusaka High Court to declare that the revised conditions of service approved by the standing committee of the diocese amounts to a breach of their contract of employment.
The deacons want another declaration that the variation of the conditions of service amounted to retirement and as such, the diocese should be ordered to pay them damages for unlawful termination of employment or in the alternative be reinstated.
They further want the court to declare that they be deemed retired and all retirement benefits be paid to them in full.
According to the deacons, whereas the earlier conditions provided for an early retirement package of one year’s stipend plus one month’s stipend for each completed year, the new conditions only provided for one year’s stipend.
They said while the earlier conditions of service were for permanent and pensionable employment, the latter provide for contracts on a two-year basis.
The new conditions further only provide for one year’s stipend for retirement, but the old ones provided for one year’s stipend and two months’ basic stipend.
The earlier conditions also provided for education allowances, but the new ones have no such provisions.
The deacons stated in their statement of claim filed in the Lusaka High Court principal registry on Monday by their lawyers Messrs Makebi Zulu Advocates that they were employed by the diocese between 1996 and 2004 on various dates and months.
Deacon Vwapu, Mackenzi, Kabamba, Mumba and Phiri said that while in the employ of the church, they had no written contracts, but that the diocese in 2001 announced terms and conditions of service which regulated the employment relationship between them and the church.
The five said on February 2, 2013 the diocese standing committee unilaterally and detrimentally changed and approved terms and conditions of service for the clergy, and the same were later presented to them to be signed some time in the month of June.
They stated that after the perusal of the terms and conditions, they noted that the basic terms and conditions previously enjoyed had been altered to their disadvantage.
Deacons Vwapu, Mackenzi, Kabamba, Mumba and Phiri said that the diocese, in a letter dated August 20, 2013, said the new terms and conditions were approved after wide consultation and were further attested by the Labour Commissioner.
The diocese was, therefore, satisfied that it met the minimum standard of the law, and that an overwhelming majority of the clergy had signed the new conditions of service and gave the five 14 days to reflect and pray over the same in the hope that they consent and sign.
They said following the failure , neglect and or refusal, the church on December 10, 2013 terminated their employment except for Mr Phiri whose employment was terminated on December 12, 2013 on grounds that their refusal to consent and sign the new conditions of service amounted to a repudiation of the contract.
Times of Zambia