LABOUR minister Paul Mavima has been warned that the changes made to the Labour Law Amendment Bill draft by the Attorney-General’s Office could have devastating effects on the country if the law is passed in its current form.
A raft of proposed wholesale changes was made to the Labour Act based on the 13 principles agreed by the three social partners, namely government, labour and business.
The amendments were triggered by the July 2015 Supreme Court ruling which allowed employers to lay off workers on three months’ notice without awarding retrenchment packages.
Labour lawyer Rodgers Matsikidze told Mavima at the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe employers’ symposium held in Harare yesterday that the changes made at the Attorney-General’s Office were “far from what had been agreed”.
“The problem we are having in terms of labour law reform is that we move two steps forward and move 10 steps backwards,” Matsikidze said. “In the past I used to think it was the Ministry of Labour but they exonerated themselves. They at the ministry said they send it as it is to the Attorney-Generals’ Office and it comes back thinner and slimmer. That is true because Amendment No.5 of 2015 also went there and came back thinner and slimmer.”
Matsikidze said the country could not afford a repeat of the error-riddled Amendment No.5 of 2015 after changes were rushed through Parliament to prevent the termination of jobs on three months’ notice without retrenchment packages which resulted in thousands of workers losing their jobs. He said Amendment No.5 had caused numerous problems around various areas which include the dispute resolution system and methods of termination.
Matsikidze said the issue of the Labour Court failing to implement its decisions, which is costing employers “a lot of money”, had not been addressed in the changes made to the draft.
“We still have a Bill that does not meet our standards,” he said.Matsikidze appealed to Mavima to intervene to save the process.
The Bill agreed by the three parties before being taken to the Attorney-General’s Office proposed that if there is a dispute over retrenchment between an employer and affected employees, then both parties will be given 30 days to resolve their differences. Should the two parties fail, then the issue will be taken to the Retrenchment Board, which must come up with a resolution within 30 days. During this period, the draft Bill states, the retrenched workers remain employed at the company until the board makes a determination.
In the case where a company makes an application to the board to be exempted from awarding the retrenchment package of two weeks’ pay for every year served, the Bill proposed that the board be given 30 days to come with a response. The Bill further proposed that employers should make an urgent application to the Labour Court if the board fails to respond within the given 30-day period.
The Bill also proposed to halve the notice period given by workers to employers of the intention to strike from 14 days to seven. It also proposed to remove the qualifying period of one year before a female employee can be eligible for maternity leave.