Senate passes Labour Bill

via Senate passes Labour Bill | The Herald August 21, 2015 by Zvamaida Murwira

Senate yesterday rejected proposed changes to the Labour Amendment Bill by the MDC-T, prompting the opposition party’s members to walk out in protest, culminating in the passage of the Bill without amendments. The Bill now awaits Presidential assent to become law. Masvingo Senator Misheck Marava and his Matabeleland South counterpart Sithembile Mlotshwa moved the MDC-T amendments at committee stage, but committee chairperson and Chiefs Council president Chief Fortune Charumbira upheld the non-affirmative vote by zanu-pf senators and traditional leaders.

After all amendments were rejected and as Chief Charumbira prepared to report to Senate president Cde Edna Madzongwe, MDC-T senators left their seats and walked out of the chamber.

zanu-pf legislators started ululating as the Bill was about to be read for the third and final time to signal its passage.

During debate on the Bill, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira, who was steering it, said all amendments from stakeholders would be tabled before the Tripartite Negotiating Forum for consideration.

TNF groups the Government, labour and industry.

Minister Mupfumira said the Supreme Court ruling involving Zuva Petroleum and its two employees conferring a right on an employer to terminate contract on three months’ notice required legislators to swiftly respond as it was potentially hazardous and threatened national security and eroded the purpose of TNF.

“I acknowledge the valuable submissions and proposals to further amend the Labour Act,” she said. “However, since reforms are a process, the House should be assured that concerns would be addressed in due course whilst immediate relief is provided to the masses of employees who were offloaded with nothing.”

“My Ministry is amenable to refining the Bill and conduct further consultations beyond this expeditious process.”

Minister Mupfumira rapped employer representatives who failed to attend TNF meetings on two occasions in July to consider the draft Bill, as in one instance they indicated that they were in Kariba and requested for a deferment.

“Another TNF meeting was called the following Monday, but the employers could not attend ‘due to short notice’ and they were also said to be still consulting,” said Minister Mupfumira.

She said her ministry was conducting a survey to inform the nation the extent of job layoffs in order to come up with a sustainable solution.

Minister Mupfumira outlined a package her Ministry, together with other Government departments, was working on to assist affected workers, like provision of land and loans.

During subsequent debate, Zanu-PF Senators concurred with Minister Mupfumira that there was need to expeditiously dispose of the Bill in its current form to stop arbitrary loss of jobs.

In his contribution, Chief Charumbira cautioned MDC-T Senators that for the Upper House to accede to their proposed amendments, it would result in referring back the Bill to the National Assembly in terms of the Constitution further haemorrhaging the job market.

Mashonaland Central Senator Cde Damian Muvhuri said the Bill was timely.

“Lets address the situation at hand to stop the arbitrary dismissal of workers,” he said.

But MDC-T Senators stood their guns, insisting that the proposed amendments were good for the nation.

They blamed the Government, in particular its economic blue-print Zim-Asset, saying while it claimed that it would create 2 million jobs, employment had instead been lost.

Senator Marava castigated several provisions of the Bill, saying it was generally unconstitutional in that it was silent on workers’ right on job action which he said was the only tool that remained for them.

“To say one month for every two year served means we are shy to say half salary for every year served,” he said. “We are shy to own up, but the world is watching.”

Midlands Senator Morgen Komichi accused the Government of being responsible for the job cuts since some State entities had also laid off workers.

The Bill sailed though the National Assembly on Tuesday.