Zim labour relations – What does 2016 hold?

Matthias Ruziwa HR Issues
The labour market is an abstract concept which refers to anywhere where workers are employed in return for certain conditions of employment. In the case of Zimbabwe, the current labour market is segmented being characterised by the co-existence of a formal sector and a relatively under-developed

informal sector.

According to Confederations of Zimbabwe Industries’ (CZI) 2015 Manufacturing Sector Survey report, capacity utilisation is hovering around 34 percent down from 36 percent in 2014.

The previous year witnessed changes to the labour relations terrain which were mainly brought into effect after the famous Supreme Court judgment SC 43 /15 in the matter between Zuva Petroleum v Don Nyamande and Kingston Donga. Media reports stated that over 25 000 workers were dismissed on three months’ notice on the basis of the common law right.

The trade unions viewed the action by employers as violation of labour rights and government had to swiftly intervene to serve the situation.

Key changes to the labour legislation were put in place to address the challenges in form of Labour, Amendment Act No, 5 of 2015.

These include the setting of a minimum retrenchment package and an exemptions avenue where an employer is incapable of paying a retrenchment package.

It is also believed that dispute resolution will be faster as labour officers and National Employment Council designated agents will make rulings. NECs were given more powers which will help in promoting the country`s Decent Work Agenda.

Speaking at the Institute of People Management of Zimbabwe’s 2015, Labour Briefing, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Honourable Prisca Mupfumira was quoted as saying “National Employment Councils’ Collective Bargaining Agreements are indispensable in the country’s industrial relations set up”

What does 2016 hold?

In my view, it is quite certain that employers and trade unions are busy working on implementation of the changes brought about to the Industrial relations terrain by the Labour, Amendment Act 5 of 2015.

Despite the fact that “the law is the law”, employers through the Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ) submitted an application to the High Court seeking redress over issues like application of the law in retrospect with particular regards to compensation for loss of employment to employees who were terminated on notice effective July 17 2015, payment of retrenchment packages to employees who would have been summarily dismissed from employment due to misconduct eg theft etc.

We are waiting to see the High Court`s ruling and I foresee this matter going all the way through to the Constitutional Court.

Concerns have been raised by some people within the legal fraternity on why EMCOZ decided to take the matter to the High Court in the first instance when it is a clear Constitutional issue.

It is also commonly understood that the Labour, Amendment Act No 5 of 2015 came in specifically to cure challenges that emanated from SC 43 /15. This fitted into the equation of on-going amendments to the labour law reform process in Zimbabwe.

I again foresee a situation where the Tripartite Negotiation Forum (TNF) will have to accommodate a total labour reform process that will sustain the country for the next five to ten years as has been the trend in the past.

This will come in form of a holistic approach which will encompass the TNF’s proposed labour law reform principles endorsed in August 2014. These are;

1) Streamlining Retrenchment procedures

2) Right to Collective Bargaining

3) Streamlining the Labour Dispute Settlement System

4) Right to collective job action

5) Equal pay for work of Equal value

6) Paid Educational Leave

7) Governance oversight over Employment Councils

8) Admission of New Members into Employment Councils

9) Right to Organise

10) Right to Maternity Protection

11) Protection against Forced or Compulsory Labour

12) Protection against Child Labour

13) Honouring of Fixed Term Contracts

Considering the current state of the economy, I am quite confident that Government will provide a legal framework and policies that are conducive to grow the economy.

It is more likely that the TNF will embrace more players from employers and the trade unions as well as other independent institutions such as the Institute of People Management of Zimbabwe.

The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare may actually come up with a policy that ensures all relevant bodies are adequately represented in the TNF to create an enabling environment for socio-economic transformation, driven by the dynamics of the labour market.

Some of the proposed principles listed above were addressed in the Labour, Amendment Act No 5 of 2015 whilst some will definitely be dealt with most likely this year.

The proposed Principles take cognisance of the historic economic blueprint, ZIM-ASSET, which seeks “to achieve sustainable development and social equity anchored on indigenisation, empowerment and employment creation . . .” as well as the Constitution of Zimbabwe (Amendment no. 20 of 2013) which provides for the right to just, fair and equitable conditions of work, and guarantees fundamental labour rights under Section 65. As a member state of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Zimbabwe also has an obligation to domesticate and give effect to Conventions it has ratified as required in terms of section 34 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

There is no doubt that the labour market environment is constantly changing. As the environment changes, so too must our legislation change so that it does not become far from social and economic realities.

According to the Sunday mail edition of 23 August 2015, Honourable Prisca Mupfumira, Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare was quoted as saying “The process (of amending the law) is on-going”.

I am confident that the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) will deal with further amendments to the Labour Act in 2016 in the spirit of “modernising labour laws” which is one of the key pointers laid by His Excellency, President RG Mugabe in the state of the nation address on 25th August 2015.

  • Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author Matthias Ruziwa is an experienced and progressing Strategic Human Resource Practitioner based in the Midlands Province, City of Kwekwe. You can contact Matthias at the following email address: [email protected] /whatsapp 0773 470 368
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