HomeBusiness DigestLabour court battles to clear backlog

Labour court battles to clear backlog

Godfrey Marawanyika

WORKERS seeking redress in the labour court continue to face frustrations because there are not enough judges to hear their cases.

vetica, sans-serif”>The labour court has only five judges instead of the required 10, forcing disputes between employers and employees to drag on for long periods.

Judicial officials this week said unless there was a massive recruitment of staff the backlog would continue rise.

The court has in the past been accused of taking years to resolve relatively minor labour disputes.

The officials said some of the unfinished cases date back to 2001 due to the strain on the judges. Besides the shortages of personnel, the labour court is hampered because it is situated in Harare. It only operates as a circuit court in other areas.

Matabeleland North, South, Midlands and Mutare have huge backlogs of cases, which date back as far as 2001. Labour cases have continued to mount in other provinces.

Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa conceded that there was a shortage of manpower but said government would soon decentralise the labour court’s operations.

“Within the next few weeks we should be decentralising some of the labour court’s operations,” Chinamasa said.

“Yes, there are problems but we hope once we decentralise the backlog will be reduced.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Labour has come up with a Labour Amendment Bill, 2005 to amend the interpretation section of the principal Act by redefining “employee”.The current definition makes “economic dependence” an essential element of an employment relationship.

The amendment states that an employer/employee relationship can exist where the employee is not necessarily economically dependent on the employer.

Clause 2 of the Bill also defines “managerial employee”, placing emphasis on the function of the employee rather than relate it to the contractual obligation.

The clause also amends the definition of “works council” to make provision for the appointment of a chairperson, thus clearing the current controversy in establishing functional councils.

Clause 3 of the Bill seeks to ensure that once passed the new law will be supreme with respect to all labour amendments.

Clause 6 of the Bill seeks to set out clearly the period of notice each party is to give in terminating a contract of employment where no notice period is given.

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