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Business, labour grapple with retrenchments

LABOUR and business are deadlocked over several proposals to wholly amend the Labour Act which include the issue of the retrenchment process, businessdigest has learnt.

Staff Writer

A meeting, held under the auspices of the Labour Law Advisory Council (LLAC), was chaired by director of labour in the Ministry of Labour Clemence Vusani on Thursday last week where labour issues remained unresolved. The deliberations focused on proposals which three parties – government, business and labour – could not agree on. The council is a sub-committee of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum.

The three parties are not agreed on the proposal which stipulates that if an employer applies to the Retrenchment Board for exemption from paying a severance package and does not get a response from the Board in 14 calendar days, then that application will be deemed accepted.

“Labour argued at the meeting that this stipulation is unacceptable and business has agreed to go to its constituency to discuss Labour’s concerns,” sources told businessdigest.

The other retrenchment issue where the parties differ is the appeal process to the Retrenchment Board in the event of disagreements on severance package between employers and employees. Employers, according to sources who attended the meeting, are in favour of making the decision reached by the board to be final. Labour, however, insists that workers should have the right to appeal if they are not happy with the decision of the Retrenchment Board.

The other bone of contention is whether an employee remains on the employer’s payroll during the period of appeal to the Board. Employers argued that since they would have paid the stipulated retrenchment package of two weeks’ salary for every year worked, this means the contract has been terminated. Labour on the other hand argued that the worker should remain on the company payroll till the severance package dispute is resolved.

Labour and business also did not agree on the notice period given by workers who intend to strike to employers.
Labour argued that the 14 working days period was too long and instead wanted the period notice reduced to 48 hours. They also demanded that the stipulation that workers vote before embarking on industrial action to be scrapped. Business argued, however, that workers should vote on strike action.

“The parties agreed to explore ways to find agreement on the issues guided by our constituencies,” an insider revealed.

The LLAC is scheduled to meet again today.

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