MASVINGO – The Zimbabwe Energy Workers' Union has come out against the proposed Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 1) Bill which it described as a piece of legislation that will not only destroy the Labour Court but will make redress of labour disputes expensive and cumbersome.
The Union said this in its position paper on the Bill which is in the hands of The Mirror.
Zewu which is one of the biggest trade union organisations in Zimbabwe said through its lawyer that the amendment, if allowed to pass will make the Labour Court subordinate to the High Court which means that its rulings will be reviewed and overturned by the later.
The Labour Court has until now been at the same level with the High Court and the two courts enjoy the same powers and are manned by judges of equal competencies.
Appellants against a Labour Court ruling currently go to the Supreme Court for redress but the proposed amendment will see appellants going to the High Court and if that fails to the Supreme Court. This makes the process cumbersome and expensive, said Zewu lawyer Caleb Mucheche of Matsikidze and Mucheche Law Chambers.
He said the cumbersome process has the negative effect of affecting investor confidence in the country. It will also weaken the workers' position as their weak financial muscle will see them opting out of legal remedies for redress of disputes.
Mucheche argues in the paper that the Labour Court is a specialist court for labour matters and the creation of a multiplicity of courts to deal with labour matters will create a backlog that will inevitably cause industrial unrest.
The amendment which comes through Section 3 of the Bill seeks to amend section 172(1) of the Constitution by a repeal of paragraph (a) which provides for a Judge President as the head of the Labour Court and substituting it with a new paragraph 9(a) which provides for a Senior Judge as the head. Under the current section (172)(1)(a) of the Constitution, the Labour Court enjoys the same status as the High Court in that it is headed by a Judge President.
Mucheche also argued that the amendment is discriminatory and therefore violated the Constitution of Zimbabwe. He said Labour Court Judges will enjoy less favourable working conditions and will be considered inferior to the High Court Judges although they are appointed on the same qualifications and experience.
"There is no cogent or justifiable legal basis for making the Labour Court and the Administrative Court inferior to the High Court when judges from all the three courts posses the same minimum qualification to be eligible for appointment as a judge," argued Mucheche.
He says that the proposed amendment defeats the amendment of 2003 where the Labour Relations Tribunal was transformed into a court whose powers of review were the same as those of the High Court.
"The intention of the legislature was clearly to establish a one-stop shop for labour matters and provide finality in litigation involving labour issues. Otherwise why create a structure that is parallel to the High Court?
"The Bill will introduce a cumbersome labour dispute resolution system if it becomes law in its current form because it allows parties to embark on a forum shopping spree between the Labour Court and the High Court. It is trite law that there must be finality to litigation.
"Litigations will go back and forth from the Labour Court to the High Court. This piecemeal approach to labour cases is likely to fuel a backlog of labour disputes. The Bill creates murky waters for dispute resolution in Zimbabwe. In most cases employees have weaker financial muscle compared to their employers," says Mucheche.news