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ZCTU, Govt Clash Over Proposed Labour Law Amendments

Zimbabwe's biggest labor movement, ZCTU, says government wants to change laws to retrench workers.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions says it is strongly opposed to suggestions that the country's labour laws must be amended to make it easier for industry and commerce to retrench workers.

ZCTU president George Nkiwane told VOA Studio 7 it is sad that the government is seeking to amend labour laws, particularly those to do with hiring and firing.

He said this would leave Zimbabwe's already hard-pressed workers more vulnerable.

Nkiwane was reacting to recent statements by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa that the government plans to trim the civil service to reduce expenditure and to amend labour laws to make it easier for industry and commerce to retrench workers as a way of helping improve viability.

Nkiwane said the government should be concerned about reviving the economy than changing labour laws.

Industry has been complaining about the high cost of labour as one of the causes of viability problems but the ZCTU maintains that research has shown that Zimbabwe's workers are among the least paid in the region.

Thousands of workers are being retrenched without getting any severance packages as the economy continues to fail.

Nkiwane said the government should put in place safety nets that would cater for the welfare of unemployed workers.

Turning to the proposed retrenchment of government workers, Nkiwane said this is long overdue as his organization has always stated that the civil service is bloated.

Labour and economic analyst Prosper Chitambara told Studio 7 over the phone that he also agrees that there is need to reduce the number of government workers as their salaries have remained a drain on the fiscus.

Chitambara, however, said Chinamasa's suggestions address the symptoms of the country's economic problems.

He noted that what needs to be addressed are issues of high cost of finance and related business costs.

Chitambara said most of Zimbabwe's workers are paid wages that are below the cost of living so amending labour laws would not do much to nudge the economy towards the much-needed growth.

Dydmus Dewa, a development studies lecturer with the Zimbabwe Open University, speaking as an independent analyst, said he shares Chitambara's view.
Dewa said while there's need for government to ensure the viability of industry and commerce, this must not be done at the expense of labour, as doing so could result in social upheaval.
The government is being blamed for failing to revive the ailing economy. observers say things will not change unless the government puts in place credible policies that attract foreign direct investment and guarantee security of property.