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    Saturday, 31 March 2018

    Industrial Relations Indaba



    There are 50 registered National Employment Councils {NECs} in Zimbabwe mandated to expeditiously resolve labor disputes in their jurisdictions by operation of law. An NEC is a voluntary organization comprising of Employees' Associations and Employers' Associations as provided under section 56 of the Labor Act. The employees' associations are registered trade unions or federation of trade unions while the employers association is a registered employers association or federation of such associations for a specific industry for example mining sector, tobacco industry or security. NECs are therefore industry specific and cannot encroach into another industry or sector.
    This means employees who have disputes with their employers can only approach their respective NEC for their dispute to be entertained. NECs have a bipartite structure meaning any committee that should sit has to have an equal number of representatives from the trade union and the employer party and this should be captured in their Constitution together with procedures for dealing with disputes as per Labor Act section 58 dictates.
    The role of NECs is to assist its members in Collective Bargaining, to prevent disputes between employers and employees in their industry and to resolve arisen disputes. Collective Bargaining is an important dispute resolution platform in that members come together to discuss and agree on matters of concern such as salary increments, overtime rates, benefits, deductions, conditions of employment, health and safety, workplace violence, ways to resolve disputes, productivity among others. All these roles are statutory. The law implores upon employers to negotiate in good faith and to disclose their financials in the event of pleading inability to pay.
    Employees who for example, have been dismissed unfairly, or have not been paid their wages can go and report to these NECs for recourse. The NEC has the authority to call the reported employer, convene a hearing and arrive at a judgment and penalty. This setup is favorable to employees because it is cheap, fast, not intimidating as in court settings and not technical. It is important to note that Collective Bargaining is now provided for under our new Constitution which is the supreme law of the land. Section 65 of this new constitution provides for a right to fair and safe labor practices and standards and to be paid a fair and reasonable wage. Collective bargaining at NEC level becomes a platform for employees to be accorded safe labor practices and standards and a fair and reasonable wage. NECs are therefore important institutions for labor justice delivery in Zimbabwe.
    NECs have their foot soldiers called Designated Agents who go around organizations in their industry and geographical boundary checking if indeed the rights of employees are not being flouted by employers. The advantage of this is that some employees may be paid less than minimum wages without the knowledge of these agreed minimums. Now when these foot soldiers arrive at an organization, they inspect the payroll to check compliance. Besides payroll, they also inspect on occupational safety issues which really is an advantage for employees. Even in marginalized areas, they travel to assist in upholding employee rights. Furthermore, Designated Agents Conciliate and Arbitrate labor disputes in their jurisdictions which is another important labor justice delivery role.
    Employers equally have the right to air their concerns as an industry on this platform. Through CBAs and Codes, they are able to clearly spell out expected behaviors from employees and penalties they will invoke in the event of misbehavior. The NEC then becomes a unitary platform for both parties where in advance they spell to each expected labor standards all however, under the dictates of the law. It is therefore important for all Labor Relations stakeholders including government to ensure survival of this important pluralistic institution because in its absence, employees being a weaker party to capital, will likely be abused.
    Mr Togaraseyi Zvomoyo is a Managing Consultant with Labor Standards Pvt Ltd an HR and Labor Consultants Firm and an Associate Consultant with Industrial Psychology Consultants - IPC. He is also a part time Lecturer with Reformed Church University in the Human Resources Management Dept – Harare Campus and a PhD Student in Human Resources Management with Bindura University. You can conduct him on 0774 805 766 or email: tzvomoyo@gmail.com

    Nkulumani Mlambo (0772 118 533/0715 505353)
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