via Zanu PF Labour Bill ‘more cruel’ – NewsDay Zimbabwe August 18, 2015
THE Labour Amendment Bill, viewed as the solution to the massive job losses that followed a recent landmark Supreme Court ruling, is worse than the existing labour laws, an opposition party warned yesterday.
MDC Renewal Team, led by Tendai Biti, dismissed the proposed Bill set to be debated in Parliament today as “chaotic” and “more exploitative” than the principal Labour Act Chapter 28:01 it seeks to replace.
The gazetting of the Bill last Friday created excitement after indications that the over 20 000 workers who lost their jobs could get compensation if the law was passed.
The proposed law seeks to provide relief to employees who lost their jobs and protect those facing retrenchment in future. But in a critique, the Renewal Team said the proposed law was bound to cause problems for both workers and employers.
“While appearing to offer relief to workers dismissed after the 17th of July 2015, the same creates chaos and confusion in the labour market and leaves both employers and employees in a lurch,” the party said.
“A closer reading of the Amendment Bill shows that the proposed situation is so horrendous such that for the majority of workers in Zimbabwe, they are better off under the present chaotic labour statutes where terminations of employment have been permitted by the challenged Supreme Court judgment.”
The party argued that the Bill proposed that where the employer and the employee reached a deadlock in negotiations on a retrenchment package in the works council, the employer may pay a minimum retrenchment package being two weeks’ salary for every year worked.
“This figure is arbitrary and exploitative. For a retrenched employee to be entitled to a retrenchment package equivalent to three months of his salary, he ought to have worked for at least six years,” the party added.
“This, therefore, means that for the majority of workers in Zimbabwe who in any event have not worked for more than five years, they are better off being given the current chaotic three months’ notice.”
The opposition party also questioned the legality of having the law applying in retrospect, saying if passed into law, the Act would open floodgates of court challenges.
“If Zanu PF gets away with the precedent of retrospectivity, they can wake up one day and retrospectively criminalise all that voted for the MDC in 2008 by way of an absurd example,” Biti’s party warned. The Renewal Team said the proposed Bill was also poorly drafted and would cause confusion.
“Clause 18 of the proposed amendment makes it clear that the same applies to every employee whose services were terminated on the same notice on or after the 17th of July 2015.
“This provision should be welcome in that on the face of it, it provides the potential of relief to the more than 25 000 workers who were terminated after the Supreme Court judgment.
“However, like everything that Zanu PF is, the retrospective provision is a disaster,” it added. “For starters, it is not clear under the provision whether all workers fired to date are being reinstated.
“More importantly, constitutionalism and the rule of law stands squarely against laws that apply retrospectively.
“Thus, instead of the law providing clarity and providing a solution that addresses the plight of the workers, the law is not doing so. Instead, we will see in the next few weeks once the Bill is passed, a plethora of court challenges to the draft amendment.
“The MDC Renewal Team thus rejects and condemns the proposed amendments to the labour law.”
Biti’s party said the government’s response to the crisis in the labour industry showed that Zanu PF had run out of ideas.
“The amendments stem from an exhausted regime with neither the desire nor capability of providing proper and legitimate solutions to the Zimbabwe crisis,” the party added. “The Zanu PF government and the institutions under it have become predatory and extractive institutions responsible for the massive dislocation and suffering of our people. This government and its tired and exhausted leader must resign to give Zimbabweans a fresh start under a new generation of leaders who put ideas and issues ahead.”
President Robert Mugabe has criticised the current labour law, saying it was created during the colonial era to disadvantage blacks.