Govt moots changes to Labour Act

Source: Govt moots changes to Labour Act | The Sunday Mail  May 1, 2016

Lincoln Towindo
Parties to the Tripartite Negotiating Forum are currently reviewing a raft of changes to the Labour Act as Government, labour and employees fine tune regulations to ensure harmonious relations between workers and the bosses at the workplace. The move has been necessitated by the urgent need to incorporate further amendments to the primary Labour Act before the end of the current session of Parliament.

Government last year amended the Labour Act, albeit without due consultation of all parties, as it sought to stem the arbitrary dismissal of workers on the strength of legal technicality that gave employers authority to dismiss employees on three months’ notice.

The arbitrary action witnessed employers’ representatives taking Government to court challenging various sections of the amended legislation including that which compels them to compensate workers dismissed on three months’ notice without a retrenchment package as permitted by a July 17 Supreme Court ruling last year.

Business was also accusing Government of ignoring the concept of equality when it amended the Labour Act last year.

The High Court case was later withdrawn following an out of court settlement between the parties. Following the withdrawal of the case in January, TNF principals held their first meeting to renew commitment towards their founding principles of the TNF under the Kadoma Declaration after months of trading accusations over the amended Labour Act.

At the meeting the parties agreed on a road map towards refining the Labour Act as guided by Government’s 10-Point Plan; The Kadoma Declaration; The Constitution of Zimbabwe No. 20; and Ratified International Labour Organization(ILO) Conventions.

The TNF is a social dialogue platform that brings together government, business and labour to negotiate key socio-economic matters.

It has been in existence since 1998 as a voluntary and unlegislated chamber in which socio-economic matters are discussed and negotiated over by the partners.

The Sunday Mail understands that the amendments will include clauses that make a clear legal distinction between termination of contracts on notice, retrenchments and disciplinary procedures.

Furthermore, some of the proposed amendments include the separation of procedures concerning termination of contracts due to death, incapacitation and retirement.

Changes will be made to enhance dispute settlement mechanisms and proposals that have been put forward to repeal section 93 (5) of the Principal Act and maintain section 93 (5) as in the Labour Amendment Act to remove the ambiguity.

It is also being proposed that labour officers make rulings that are not subject to confirmation by the Labour Court.

To further refine retrenchment procedures, it has been proposed that, a time frame be introduced to negotiations after the employer has given notice of intention to retrench.

Further, the time frame for the Retrenchment Board to consider applications for exemptions be extended.

The proposed amendments also require that the Registrar be given a time frame to consider applications for registration of employment councils and trade unions.

Speaking to The Sunday Mail ahead of today’s Workers Day Celebrations Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Mrs Priscah Mupfumira said a draft Bill has been completed and is currently being assessed by Business, Labour and Government.

Said Minister Mupfumira: “We have made a lot of progress with regards to further amending the Labour Act.

“A draft Bill is ready and is being reviewed by all parties whereby we expect them to make their individual contributions and raise their concerns if there are any.

“We are all expected to report back at a meeting that will be convened before the end of May.

“It is at this meeting that all concerns will be attended to and addressed.

“From that meeting we expect to come out with a draft that is acceptable to all parties.

“I will then take the Bill to Cabinet and then Parliament where we expect it to pass without much hustle.

“I am confident that the law will be passed before Parliament adjourns in August.

“We realised as Government that we rushed when we amended the law last year and now we are making amends by involving everyone in the process.”

Mordenising the country’s labour laws are among the targets set by President Mugabe under the 10 Point Plan for Economic Growth.

The current exercise is meant to ensure that contributions from all three parties are incorporated into the final Act and also stem bickering while reinforcing cooperation.

The ongoing in house consultations are expected to be completed by end of this month before a meeting of the parties is convened to incorporate their contributions in the final draft.

Minister Mupfumira said the Bill will then be taken through the normal legislative processes which include taking the Bill to Cabinet before it is tabled before Parliament where it is expected to be fast tracked.

She said the exercise, which is being steered by the Labour Law Advisory Council that was constituted in January, has the buy in of all TNF parties.

According to the Labour Act, employers who dismissed workers on the strength of the Supreme Court ruling are supposed to, among other things pay in retrospect two weeks salary for every year served .

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary General Mr Japhet Moyo said: “The current effort to relook at the Labour Act is welcome as long as social partners stick to the founding principles that were agreed before the enactment of Labour Act Amendment No.5.”

On July 17 last year, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku and four Supreme Court justices ruled that the common law position placing employees and employers at par was operational.

They were deciding on a case in which two former Zuva Petroleum managers were challenging termination of their contracts by notice.

Several private and State-linked firms have dismissed thousands of employees on the strength of this judgment, prompting Government to step in.

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 3
  • comment-avatar
    Joe Cool 6 years ago

    There was no ‘legal technicality’that gave employers ‘authority’ to terminate employees on three months notice. It was a plainly stated and unambiguous provision in the Labour Act that needed no ‘interpretation’, so stop being dishonest – if that is possible.

  • comment-avatar

    Have the NRZ workers been paid yet??????????

  • comment-avatar
    harper 6 years ago

    The way things are going the CIO will be the only workplace left.