LABOUR minister Nicholas Goche’s powers to veto collective bargaining agreements as prescribed in the current Labour Act are set to be curtailed when the law is amended after labour, business and government agreed to a raft of proposed changes, Business Digest has established.
The proposals also focus on retrenchments and easing the stringent processes required for workers to go on strike.
This comes after business and labour were miffed by Goche’s refusal to register the collective bargaining agreement between the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union Zimbabwe (Gapwuz) and employers citing inability by new farmers to pay the wage minimum.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary-general Japhet Moyo told Business Digest that they had registered their concerns at recently held Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) meeting, the first since 2009. The TNF is a social dialogue platform that brings together government, business and labour to negotiate over 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 social partners
“We need to deal with excessive ministerial powers,” Moyo said “For example, when the minister refuses to register a collective bargaining agreement between Gapwuz and employers. With the current law the minister is empowered to reject a collective bargaining agreement. We need to strip the minister of such powers.”
Employer Confederation of Zimbabwe executive director John Mufukare said they had agreed at the TNF meeting that government should not subject a collective bargaining agreement between workers and employers to verification.
“An agreement made between two responsible parties should not be open to verification by a third party,” Mufukare said.
The three parties also agreed that there is need to make it easier for employees to go on strike although they were no proposed timeframes at the meeting. The current law stipulates that employees need to give 14 working days notice to strike.
Workers also must vote by secret ballot in favour of going on a job action. Moyo said that the current requirements made it “cumbersome” for workers to go on strike.
Mufukare said that the current statutes make it “almost impossible” to have a legal strike in Zimbabwe, adding that this was in direct contravention of some of the International Labour Organisation conventions ratified by the country.
The three parties also agreed that there will be no national minimum set on retrenchment packages. Both Mufukare and Moyo revealed that they agreed on a sectoral minimum retrenchment package which will be thrashed out within the various National Employment Councils (Necs). Goche will soon present the agreed proposals to Cabinet before going to the Attorney General’s office for the drafting process.
Moyo however said that although the discussions at the TNF meeting were progressive, they would wait to see if what they had discussed is included in the amended draft as a barometer to measure the success of the talks.