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Employers take govt to task over reforms

BUSINESS has taken government to task over the delay in completing labour laws critical to resuscitating the economy.

By Kudzai Kuwaza

Speaking at a meeting between the business sector and Labour minister Petronella Kagonye held last week, Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) president Matthew Chimbgandah said the delay in the amendment of the Labour Act and legalising the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) Bill is in stark contrast to government’s mantra that the country is open for business.

“I can tell you one of the things is that we are going to have a class action on a section (in the current Labour Act) that is punishing employers for dismissing employees who are errant and who steal from companies in that those workers come back and expect to be paid compensation by the employer for loss of employment. It is there in the Act. Why is that clause still there?” Chimbgandah asked.

“On the one hand we are talking about being open for business and investment but we are dragging our feet on changing the laws. Let us change the laws that are commensurate with what we are saying. When we say we should walk the talk, that is it. We should move fast.”

He said the speedy enactment of the laws is a low hanging fruit that government should easily implement.

“What is stopping us from doing simple things? Enact the TNF Bill. We have heard a lot that you are working on it. You are taking too long,” Chimbgandah told government officials at the meeting.

The Emcoz president said the TNF should be the avenue through which economic policies are implemented because it involves all three social partners: government, business and labour.

Chimbgandah said during his trips to South Africa and Kenya those he interacted with said the country should walk the talk on being open for business before they render assistance.

He said the money being used for presidential scholarships should be channeled towards creating entrepreneurial hubs for youths as is the case in other African countries such as Kenya.

In response, Labour permanent secretary Ngoni Masoka said they are making frantic efforts to ensure the completion of the Labour Act amendment process as well as legalising the TNF.

“People have had to write very strong representations even assisted by our principals beyond the ministry to appeal to the Attorney-General’s office and the Ministry of Justice that we cannot continue to return versions (of the amended Labour Act) forever,” Masoka said. “The social contract is desperately required by the nation and by government. The Labour Act must be amended and the TNF Bill must be passed. These two legislations must be in place for us to move forward.”

He said there has been serious engagement between the ministry’s lawyer and the AG’s office to complete the process of amending the Labour Act.

Masoka added that the delay from the AG’s office has been because they have been “inundated” with various pieces of legislation which have to be aligned to the constitution.

Deputy director (international relations) in the Ministry of Labour Langton Ngorima said they aim to complete the Labour Act amendment process before the current Parliament comes to the end of its tenure in preparation for elections later this year.

Kagonye said her ministry has prioritised the finalisation of the TNF Bill and the completion of the amendment of the Labour Act in the ministry’s first 100 days which end next month.

“My ministry is in full throttle to provide the appropriate legal framework for business to thrive and contribute to the turnaround we need,” Kagonye said. “It is in this context that we have prioritised in our 100-day initiatives the finalisation of the TNF Bill and the Labour Act Amendment Bill.”
Meanwhile, employers will meet from March 21 to 24 for the human resources indaba in Kariba.

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