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Govt proposes Labour Act amendments

GOVERNMENT has bowed down to demands by employers to amend the Labour Act, by removing some clauses which captains of industries believe were costly to business.

Kudzai Kuwaza

Sources revealed the government had, among other things, agreed to amend a clause that entitles employees fired over disciplinary issues to compensation similar to that of retrenched workers.

Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Prisca Mupfumira

Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Prisca Mupfumira

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. The ruling precipitated the loss of an estimated 30 000 jobs as companies and state entities moved to cut costs.

Employers, however, tore into the amended Labour Act, hurriedly passed by parliament in August last year, pointing out “glaring loopholes” which they said were costly for business.

The employers made a High Court application in October last year against the amendments.

The most contentious of the amended legislation was the clause that entitles employees fired over disciplinary issues to compensation similar to that of workers who are retrenched. The clause that obliges employers to compensate workers dismissed using the Supreme Court ruling by paying them the statutory retrenchment package of two weeks’ salary for every year served was also challenged.

Government, through deputy chief secretary Christian Katsande, had initially told employers they would only begin talks on the amendments if they withdrew their High Court application against the changes made to the Labour Act.

Although he refused to divulge the ammendments proposed by government, Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) executive director John Mufukare said the business technical committee met on Tuesday this week to discuss government proposals. Emcoz received the proposals on Thursday last week.

“The government has come up with some amendments as part of the process to clean up the Act,” Mufukare said.

“The technical committee of business met on Tuesday and made recommendations which we will send to our principals in business. Once they agree on the recommendations that will become our position as business.”

Mufukare said business will take their position to the Labour Advisory Council meeting, which will be convened at a date to be set by government. The advisory council is a sub-committee of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF).

The TNF is a social dialogue platform that brings together government, business and labour to negotiate 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 partners.