EMPLOYERS, who are part of a High Court application challenging amendments to labour laws, have refused to approach the Retrenchment Board for an exemption from paying retrenchment packages to dismissed workers, saying this will imply they retrenched the workers.
Employers have made a High Court application against some amendments to the Labour Act, among them a clause obliging them to compensate workers dismissed using the July 17 Supreme Court ruling that allowed employers to lay off employees on three months’ notice without paying a retrenchment package.
Employers are obliged to pay two weeks’ salary for every year served. A total of 33 companies are part of the High Court application.
At a meeting held last Thursday by the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) to discuss the outcome of the principals’ Tripartite Negotiating Forum meeting held on January 29, employers said they did not need to go through the Retrenchment Board because they had not retrenched workers but had terminated their contracts.
One of the resolutions made at the meeting was that the Retrenchment Board must finalise the pending retrenchment cases for the 33 distressed companies to be identified by Emcoz on an urgent basis.
“The employers were unequivocal,” a source who attended the meeting told businessdigest. “They said that theirs was not a retrenchment at all. It was a termination.”
Other resolutions made are that a Tripartite Labour Advisory Council will be appointed to conclude the principles of the amendment of the entire Act within three months from February 1 2016 and that the Labour ministry shall immediately engage the Law Development Commission in order to correct inconsistencies in some of the provisions of the Labour Act as amended, within one month from February 1 2016.
They also resolved that the TNF should consider other issues of broader socio-economic interest, including the strengthening of social dialogue at all levels and the setting up of the Zimbabwe National Productivity Institute (ZNPI).
A ZNPI strategic planning symposium is to be held from February 18 to 19 2016 in Harare.
Emcoz president Josephat Kahwema dismissed media reports that the confederation had made an undertaking in principle at the meeting to immediately withdraw the court application.
“That we have agreed to withdraw the application is their opinion and everyone is entitled to an opinion,” Kahwema said. “The true position is we will only withdraw our court application when our members are protected from lawsuits from dismissed employees.”
Employers have expressed concern at various loopholes in the Act that could prove costly for business.
Among the amended Act’s flaws is the clause that entitles employees fired over disciplinary issues to compensation similar to that of workers who are retrenched.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has said they have applied for a joinder in the High Court case to oppose the employers’ application which among other things seeks not to pay in retrospect.