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Two Pronged Approach To End Massive Zimbabwe Worker Retrenchments: Constitutional Challenge and Govt Intervention

FILE: Members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions hold banners advocating the scrapping of taxes on pension benefits.(AP Photo)

President Robert Mugabe's cabinet on Thursday vowed to ammend provisions of the Labour Act to put an end to massive job cuts that have seen more than 1,300 workers lose their jobs since a Supreme Court ruling that gave employers the green light to fire workers without retreachment packages.

Cabinet resolved to amend the relevant provisions of the Labour Act in a desperate attempt to end the massive job cuts.

In a statement after the cabinet meeting, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Prisca Mupfumira is quoted by the national broadcaster the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation as saying the way forward is an urgent amendment of the Labor Act.

"Government has resolved to amend the relevant provisions of the Labour Act in the shortest possible time in order to restore equilibrium in the market.

Meanwhile, government appeals to employers to exercise maximum restraint in terminating contracts of employment on notice, pursuant to the Supreme Court ruling," she said.

The development comes as two former managers at Zuva Petroleum Private Limited who took company owners to the Supreme Court over the termination of their service on Thursday filed an appeal at the Constitutional Court against last Friday’s ruling.

The Supreme Court interpreted Zimbabwe’s common law to rule that, unlike in the past when employers had to settle termination packages for workers and sometimes seek government approval, they would now be able to simply giving them varying types of notice.

Employees who would have served for at least two years would simply be given a three months’ notice to terminate employment contracts, while those with less than two would need to be given two months’ notice.

Don Nyamande and Kingston Donga accused the petroleum company of illegally terminating their contracts after taking over from BP Shell.

Through their lawyer Lovemore Madhuku, they argued that Section 12(4) of the Labour Act, does not grant an employer the right to terminate employment contracts on notice, but simply provides terms and conditions of provisions of notice.

But chief justice Godfrey Chidyausiku and four other judges, sitting as a Supreme Court, unanimously agreed that common law position placing employees and employers on an equal footing was still operational.

Madhuku told VOA Studio 7 that papers have indeed been filed in the ConCourt and wants Chidyausiku and four others to recuse themselves.

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Zuva Petrolium lawyer, Innocent Chagonda told Studio 7 that the chances of Madhuku succeeding in the Concourt are slim as the Supreme Court judgement was sound.

Interview With Innocent Chagonda
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