Employers blast Labour Act loopholes

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EMPLOYERS have torn into the newly-amended Labour Act, hurriedly passed by parliament last month, pointing out glaring loopholes in the Act which they say would prove costly for business.

Kudzai Kuwaza

The Act was amended mainly to outlaw the clause that formed the basis of the July 17 Supreme Court ruling, which allowed employers to terminate contracts on three-months’ notice without retrenchment packages. This precipitated the loss of more than 20 000 jobs as companies and state entities moved to cut costs.

Employers on Thursday expressed concern at the loopholes in the Act during an Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) stakeholders’ consultative meeting on the new Labour Act held between employers and government. The most contentious of the Act’s weaknesses, they said, is the clause that entitles employees fired over disciplinary issues to compensation similar to that of workers who are retrenched.

“We as employers may face litigation from the erroneous clauses in the Act,” a concerned employer told acting Labour permanent secretary Memory Mukondomi and legal advisor in the ministry, Precious Sibiya, at the highly-charged meeting.

Sibiya acknowledged that the Act had errors as it was hurriedly passed to stop job losses. She said the offending clauses would be amended. “We are engaging the Attorney General’s office on the mistakes in the amended act,” she said.

However, Sibiya’s undertaking that the Act would be amended swiftly failed to placate the employers who demanded immediate action, with some even suggesting that the changes be implemented with the same “lightning speed” with which the Labour Act was amended and passed through parliament, before President Robert Mugabe signed it into law.

On the controversial retrospective application of the law which mandates employers to compensate workers dismissed using the Supreme Court ruling, Sibiya said this was necessary to recompense the huge number of workers affected by the ruling.

“Employer decided to go it alone without tripartite resolutions to the issue despite the grave consequences of their actions,” Sibiya said much to the anger of the employers.

She alleged business had failed to attend Tripartite Negotiating Forum meetings to discuss the issue and delayed in submitting their contributions to the Bill.

But Emcoz executive director John Mufukare said it was not possible to come up with a position when given just two hours to attend such a meeting.

Emcoz president Jack Murehwa said the confederation will hold an emergency meeting with the seven apex business bodies it co-ordinates to come up with a position, adding that “all options are on the table”.

He however decline to elaborate on the options, although court action looms.

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