EMPLOYERS will only withdraw an application at the High Court challenging labour law amendments if their members are protected from lawsuits by former employees, businessdigest has established.
This comes ahead of crucial talks between government and employers to discuss the amendments.
At a Tripartite Negotiating Forum technical committee held on November 24 last year, the government through deputy Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Christian Katsande, who heads the committee, insisted it cannot sit on the same table with people trying to arm-twist the state.
Employers appealed against various sections of the amended legislation including that which compels them to compensate workers they dismissed on three months’ notice without a retrenchment package as permitted by a July 17 Supreme Court ruling this year. This has resulted in dismissed workers from at least 23 companies picketing their employers’ offices demanding compensation or reinstatement.
In a letter to the Ministry of Labour, which was written by the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) on behalf of its various business apex body members and is expected to be delivered to the ministry today, employers expressed concerns over the protection of their members should they withdraw their court case.
“There is no consensus on the route social dialogue will take after Emcoz has withdrawn its court challenge, thereby exposing employers to the risk of litigation by affected ex-employees,” Emcoz wrote to government in a letter titled Business position on court action against some provisions of the Labour Amendment Act No. 5 of 2015.
“While Labour insists on holistic labour law reform, employers are more concerned that the “unintended consequences” arising from the Labour Act Amendment Act No. 5 of 2015 which threaten the viability of businesses must be addressed as the highest priority.”
The employers’ body told the government that they always preferred social dialogue but were also alive to the consequences of the amendments to the labour law to business.
“Business has always preferred social dialogue over litigation which is expensive, adversorial and not best for building sustainable relations, going forward,” Emcoz said.
“We are acutely aware that Business taking the government to court has a possible negative impact on the country risk factor, but are equally aware of the damage to the same country risk factor caused by inconsistency in our laws.”
Emcoz said the protection afforded to employers by the stay of execution arising from the Class Action has to be guaranteed, while negotiations to further amendments to the Labour Law are thrashed out.