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Company Fires 242 Workers as Senate Tables Labour Bill to Block Job Cuts

Members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions hold banners advocating the scrapping of taxes on pension benefits.Hundreds of workers converged in Harare, Sunday, May, 1, 2005, to celebrate International Workers Day. Leaders of the trade union in Zimbabwe called on the government to respect human rights and review the minimum wage.(AP Photo)

Textile firm David Whitehead on Thursday fired more than 242 workers even as the Senate was discussing the Labour Amendment Bill that is set to stop the ongoing unprecedented job losses.

The job cuts were triggered by a recent Supreme Court ruling allowing employers to fire employees on three months’ notice.

Secretary general Japhet Moyo of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions confirmed the David Whitehead dismissals, adding it is disturbing.

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

The Senate was also set to consider some amendments proposed by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) meant to make changes to clauses 4, 5 and 14 of the draft bill. Under Clause 4, the party is 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 labour is allowed to intervene and suspend works councils, they party says the clause should be deleted completely. President Robert Mugabe is expected to sign the bill into law once it clears the Senate.

Labour law expert Rogers Matsikidze told VOA Studio 7 government must have allowed tripartite talks with business and labour before the wholesale changes.