GOVERNMENT has shifted goalposts after revealing that it now wants amendments to the entire Labour Act instead of cosmetic changes to the legislation pushed through parliament last year as the stand-off between authorities, employers and workers continues, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
The three parties had been meeting every Friday as stipulated by government to clean contentious amendments made by government last year. Some of the amendments that caused uproar include the clause that allows dismissed workers to be compensated like a worker who has been retrenched. Following this setback business and labour will meet today under the auspices of the Labour Advisory Council to discuss the new proposal.
“All along we were cleaning up the Amendment Act. But in a meeting held on March 16, government proposed to make holistic amendments to the Labour Act Chapter 28:01 and not just the Labour Amendments Act No 5 of 2015,” a source said this week.
Another insider said that employers are concerned about government’s U-turn as it means the contested clauses in the amended Labour Act could take longer to be removed.
“This has significant repercussions for employers because you have irritating things in the amendments like having to pay dismissed workers, which need to be removed urgently. It is of real concern to us why there has been a sudden change in direction and so the meeting will help us to find out exactly where we are going,” the insider said.
Employers have appealed against various sections of the amended legislation, including that which compels them to compensate workers they dismissed using last year’s Supreme Court ruling. This has resulted in dismissed workers from at least 23 companies picketing their employers’ offices demanding compensation or reinstatement.
In its application filed at the High Court in September 2015, employers said there were many areas in the Labour Amendment Act that needed revisiting by the courts, taking into account the country’s constitution.
“This is an application for a declaration of the constitutional invalidity of certain provisions of the Labour Amendment Act No 5 of 2015,” Emcoz executive director John Mufukare said in his founding affidavit.
“I am prepared to go further to aver that this limitation came about through an arbitrary process of legislating, a knee-jerk reaction by the state to what it perceived as a social ill. That the process of legislating the Amendment Act was reactionary is evidenced in the lack of thinking, consultation and research required to guide government action and lawmaking.”
The appeal is yet to be heard.