Govt moves to amend labour laws

In an attempt to contain spreading industrial action, the government is expected to come up with a raft of amendments to the country’s labour laws.

Tendai Biti
Tendai Biti

Presenting the 2012 Budget Strategic paper on Wednesday, Finance Minister Tendai Biti, said industry continued to “reel under high overhead costs, with labour costs being one of the main areas of concern.”

Biti said there was need for stakeholders to come up with inputs and proposals on amendments to the labour laws.

“Another issue for consideration is the provision of flexibilities within our labour laws to allow equal treatment for day and night workers in order to maximize utilization of our limited energy resources and other utilities,” he said.

Despite increasing salaries, the state has failed to prevent strikes. Public prosecutors and workers at government parastatals such as the National Railways of Zimbabwe and Air Zimbabwe recently went on strike for higher wages. To further compound matters, the government wage bill is already gobbling up more than 50% of the current budget.

Labour expert Arthur Marara said many of the problems resulted from employers failing to implement collective bargaining agreements.

"The difference between slavery and employment is ultimately the payment of agreed wages," he said.

"Workers have a right to demand salaries that will cushion them against the rising cost of living as evidenced by the surging month on month inflation rates. The government should address the inflationary pressures and come down hard on price distortions in the market," said another expert.

Labour representatives are say the strikes could hit more institutions. Recently, teachers confronted the government over the scrapping of incentives and other bonuses and college lecturers also downed tools.

The Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency calculated Zimbabwe's headline consumer inflation on the up at 3.5% year on year in August from 3.3% in July. It said the main drivers behind the increases were transport costs, the prices of alcoholic beverages and tobacco, while the 31% increase in electricity tariffs was expected to have further impact on subsequent inflation statistics.

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