Felex Share Senior Reporter
Government will take action and settle for corrective legal options with the Judiciary and employers to stop sacking employees willy-nilly and empty-handed, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira said yesterday.
This follows a Supreme Court judgment last Friday that says companies could terminate workers’ contracts any time without offering them packages by giving them three months’ notice only.
Minister Mupfumira said the judgment had opened a “floodgate” of termination of employment on notice and they had already received several reports of people being sent packing a few hours after the ruling.
“There is definitely need to settle on corrective legal options to safeguard the worker as the ministry is already receiving numerous complaints from workers whose contracts of employment have been terminated on notice since the court ruling,” she said.
“Evidently, the judgment has opened a floodgate of termination of employment on notice, resulting in numerous workers unfairly losing their jobs. My ministry is analysing the consequences of the judgment and will take action accordingly.”
Laying off workers in that way, Minister Mupfumira said, should be stopped. She insisted that there should be balance between the interests of the employee and employer.
She added: “Whilst we note the Supreme Court ruling, it has negative implications as it now leaves employees at the mercy of employers in that there is no longer room for negotiation even after long service.”
The judgment empowers employers to fire workers without even going through disciplinary hearings.
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, sitting with four other judges, 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 the same 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.
Said Minister Mupfumira: “The Supreme Court relied on common law, inter alia, in its judgment and not statute. In essence my role as minister responsible for labour is to strike a balance between the interests of the employer and employee. We will soon be engaging employer and employee representatives to reach an amicable position in light of the Supreme Court ruling which comes at an opportune time when Government is reviewing the labour laws.
“Any new thinking on the matter has to be part of the labour law review that ultimately involves both Cabinet and Parliament. In the spirit of tripartism, this is an urgent issue for further dialogue under the Tripartite Negotiating Forum.”
Government’s economic blueprint, Zim-Asset seeks to create more than two million jobs and retrenchment regulations had already been tightened to meet the target.
New requirements include submission by companies of the salary structure of the executive and management as well as allowances paid in cash or otherwise.
International Labour Organisation Zimbabwe country office director Ms Hopolang Phororo said the matter could be resolved through dialogue between Government and its social partners.
“This is a good example of issues that can be addressed through the Tripartite Negotiating Forum,” he said.
Social dialogue should be strengthened through the legislation of TNF and as ILO we are supporting this so that its decisions become binding and can be implemented.”
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president Mr George Nkiwane said the Supreme Court judgment had rendered useless all stakeholders dealing with labour issues.
“That was shocking and the National Employment Council, trade unions and the Ministry of Labour has been made redundant,” he said.
“Workers have lost all the security and protection they ought to have from Government. We are running around to get assistance because companies have started dismissing people through that route.”
Said Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Union treasurer general Mr Mudadi Masere: “That is killing the industry because just recently we were talking about ways of avoiding retrenchments. Something needs to be done urgently because going forward we end up without any employee.”