Felex Share Senior Reporter—
Government yesterday resolved to amend the Labour Act expeditiously to stem inconsistencies in the labour market which have seen companies sacking employees willy-nilly and almost empty-handed on the basis of a recent Supreme Court judgment.
The ruling delivered last Friday indicated that firms could terminate contracts of employment upon issuing three months’ notice without offering an explanation or following the retrenchment route.
Public Service, Labour and Social Services Minister Prisca Mupfumira told journalists in Harare that while the Supreme Court judges were “correctly and appropriately” guided by the law, companies should exercise maximum restraint in terminating workers’ contracts.
“To this end, the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare has been tasked to coordinate the process which should result in the expeditious tabling in Parliament of an amendment Bill to the Labour Act,” she said.
“Meanwhile, Government appeals to the employers to exercise maximum restraint in terminating contracts of employment on notice, pursuant to the Supreme Court ruling.”
This comes as more firms yesterday continued sacking people using the same judgment.
Minister Mupfumira said Government had looked at the labour laws and concluded that they needed amendment in the shortest possible time.
“It was satisfied that the (Supreme Court) bench was correctly and appropriately guided by the law as it stands, noting that the law falls short of a harmonious balance between the interests of the employer and those of the employee,” she said.
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, sitting with four other judges, last Friday unanimously agreed that the common law position placing employees and employers on an equal footing was still operational.
They were deciding a case in which two former Zuva Petroleum managers, Don Nyamande and Kingstone Donga, were challenging termination of their contracts under similar circumstances.
As a result of that common law position, employers have the same right to give notice and terminate employment, inasmuch as a worker can do the same.
The judgment empowers employers to fire workers without going through disciplinary hearings or seeking permission for formal retrenchment. Minister Mupfumira said while Government did not have the actual number of people sent packing since last Friday, it had engaged social partners in the spirit of tripartism with a view to bring normalcy on the labour market.
She said the Tripartite Negotiating Forum bringing together Government, employers and employees would soon come up with a “win-win situation”.
“Regarding the actual numbers of employees affected by this court ruling, we still await formal reports,” she said.
“Needless to say as Government, we abide by the founding principles of the Kadoma Declaration which encourages social dialogue in the labour market.”
The sacking of people, if it continues, means Government’s Zim-Asset targets of creating two million jobs would be elusive, analysts have warned.
To meet the target, Government had instead started tightening retrenchment regulations, ordering companies to submit the salary structures of the executive and management as well as allowances paid in cash or otherwise before downsizing.