TNF principals in deadlock over High Court application

Principals of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) failed to agree on the way forward over an application by employers to the High Court challenging some amendments to the Labour Act when they met on Friday last week, businessdigest has learnt.

Kudzai Kuwaza

The meeting was attended by the TNF principals, who are Labour minister Prisca Mupfumira representing government, Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe president Joel Kahwema representing business and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president George Nkiwane representing labour. Representatives of the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions and the Apex Council also attended the meeting.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president George Nkiwane

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president George Nkiwane

Sources said government insisted at the meeting employers should withdraw the court case if negotiations are to resume among the three parties. Employers, however, stuck to their guns insisting they will only withdraw their court application if government protects their members from lawsuits from former employees dismissed after the July 17 Supreme Court ruling which allowed employers to do so on three months’ notice without paying a retrenchment package. Among various sections of the amended legislation that employers have appealed against include sections that compel companies to compensate workers dismissed using the Supreme Court ruling.

“Employers told government that they cannot leave their members at the mercy of the lawyers of former employees who could attach their property if they withdraw the application,” a source said. “Government said they will fast track meetings for the affected employers with the Retrenchment Board to apply for exemptions from paying the package. This was not acceptable to employers.”

The ZCTU, who have applied for a joinder in the court application by employers, agreed in the meeting that there is a need to protect employers from lawsuits by former workers during negotiations to further amend the legislation governing labour.

Sources said the principals were scheduled to meet again yesterday for further talks to find a solution to the deadlock. However, one insider doubts the three parties can reach an agreement describing the scheduling of further negotiations as “kicking the can down the road.”

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