• Review meant to arrest the aftermath of the Zuva Ruling
• TUCZ calls for immediate consideration of draft
MASVINGO – Law experts have completed Labour Amendment Zero Draft Bill 2017 one of whose main objectives is to repeal Number 5 of 2015, a piece of legislation that brought free for all dismissals resulting in thousands of workers losing jobs in 2015.
Number 5 of 2015 which emanated from the Zuva Petroleum Supreme Court ruling caused mayhem in the industry and employers would then just give three months notice to dismiss workers. It is estimated that 30 000 of workers were dismissed in the period from July to August 2015.
In addition, the proposed amendment seeks to give effect to international obligations of the Republic of Zimbabwe as a member state of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The Labour Amendment Zero Draft is indeed a watershed piece of law that also addresses long-standing crucial issues like the creation of a conducive and competitive labour market that is friendly and encourages investment. It also seeks to establish an expeditious, simple and efficient dispute resolution mechanism.
The labour crisis in the aftermath of the Zuva ruling caused an outcry in the country forcing the Tripartite, a negotiating forum that brings together Government, employers and employees to the table and discuss the disaster.
After meetings, the Tripartite agreed on the review of the Labour Act and came up with 13 principles to guide this law reform process. The Government then hired some of the best labour law experts in the names of Rodgers Matsikidze and Caleb Mucheche to come up with a zero draft which is now ready for debate by the Tripartite.
However, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) through its secretary general Japhet Moyo has decided to reject the draft arguing that it is in favour of the employers.
Moyo insists that his organisation will come up with its own zero draft and has enlisted the services of a retired Judge to work on it, according to recent media reports.
Moyo however doesn't say exactly where or how the zero draft crafted by Matsikidze and Mucheche works in favour of employers.
Even then, Government has said the zero draft by Mucheche and Matsikidze is only a working document and it will be scrutinised by the Tripartite Forum before it goes to Parliament.
There is a strong opinion from trade unions that Moyo is actually playing into the hands of the employers by his stance. They accused him of further compromising workers because delays in debating this document and coming up with a final zero draft is prolonging the predicament and suffering of workers.
One source said Government is in any case not obliged to take the draft to the Tripartite before taking it to Parliament. The magnanimous gesture can be withdrawn by Government if ZCTU remains adamant and this would be a total disaster for workers who would lose an opportunity to have their views on the proposed piece of legislation heard through their representatives.
The newly launched Trade Union Congress of Zimbawe (TUCZ) interim president Angeline Chitambo said that her organisation was solidly behind the Zero draft and has called for an urgent meeting of the Tripartite including TUCZ, Government and EMCOZ so that the bill is passed into law.
She said that workers have suffered enough and they cannot continue with the current job insecurity.
She said she was not only confident of the draft because she read it, but because it was put together by some of the best labour lawyers in Zimbabwe.
Efforts to get a comment from John Mufukare the Employers' Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ) director were fruitless as his mobile phone was unreachable.
The 13 principles that are guiding the amendment of the Labour Act are; streamlining retrenchment procedures, right to collective bargaining, streamlining the labour dispute settlement system, collective job action, paid educational leave, governance of employment councils, legal status and appointment of parties to the employment council, right to organsie and register a trade union, right to maternity protection, protection against forced labour, equal pay for work of equal value and the clean-up of the Labour Amendment Act No 5 of 2015.
The amendment also seeks to address the power of labour officers. There is a strong view that labour officers are so powerful that they are judges, prosecutors and litigants at the same time. This according to analysts is a clear violation of the Constitution and international best practise.
The Amendment will also streamline the powers of the registrar and the Minister. The national employment councils will be made independent from the Ministry of Labour.
"Employment Councils will be effectively replaced by what will be called Labour Boards which will be more efficient because they will operate independent of the Minister. The boards will be selected by the workers and the employers to make them independent," said a trade unionist who declined to be named.