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Zimbabwe Labor Bill Sails Through Senate on Party Lines

President Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe’s Senate on Thursday passed the Labor Amendment Bill and rejected amendments being proposed by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to cushion workers further from unfair dismissals.

But even as the bill was being rammed through by the majority ruling Zanu-PF party, textile company David Whitehead was firing more than 242 workers.

Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union Japhet Moyo confirmed the latest firing of workers calling the reports “disturbing”.

Amendments to the legislation were necessitated by a Supreme Court ruling which gave employers the carte blanche to terminate employee contracts on three months’ notice.

More than 20 000 workers have lost their jobs since July 17th when the ruling was made.

The move by Zanu-PF party to block proposed Movement for Democratic Change amendments prompted a walk out from the house by the opposition Senators. The MDC had proposed to make changes to clauses 4, 5 and 14 of the draft bill.

Under Clause 4, the party was proposing that there be a provision making it clear that the current common law position that contracts can be terminated on three months’ notice is illegal.

On amendments to Clause 5 of the bill, the MDC proposed a month’s salary for every year served, instead of the current provision which stipulates a month’s salary for every two years served as compensation.

Lastly on Clause 14 that deals with issues of public interest in which the minister responsible for labor is allowed to intervene and suspend works councils, the opposition party had called for the removal of the clause saying the minister could abuse it.

But Zanu PF senators blocked all amendments proposed by the MDC-T as the upper house ensured the Labor Amendment Bill sailed through.

After passing through the senate, the Labor Amendment Bill will then be presented to the president for assent. According to the constitution, the president is required to assent to the bill within 21 days or if he withholds his assent, he shall return the bill to parliament.

If the president assents, the bill will be gazetted as a new law. Labor law expert Rogers Matsikidze told VOA that government must have allowed tripartite talks with business and labor before the wholesale changes.

Interview With Rogers Matsikidze
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Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe executive director John Mufukari says the Labour Amendment Bill seemed to have been crafted to fix business and does not encourage investor participation in the economy.