Retrenchment dilemma needs negotiation

It is vital for government to revise its attitude to the tripartite negotiating processes that includes labour and business so as to create a sustainable win-win situation.

Paul Bogaert

Paul Bogaert

Both labour and employers are unhappy with government’s recent unilateral amendment of the Labour Act -which parliament has already passed and which awaits presidential assent to become law.
While trade unions are not particularly unhappy with the amendments, as they favour the workforce, employers are bitter because they believe some of the new provisions that were made without their involvement are inimical to business survival.
The Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ) was not a party to any of the three versions of the Labour Act amendment bill, which was passed purely because Zanu (PF) holds a majority in both houses of parliament.
It is not sustainable for the government to go it alone regarding legislation because that creates fertile ground for future acrimony and instability. Obviously the state acted hastily, without involving the other interested parties, because it wanted to avoid mass dismissals of workers and the consequent social unrest.  A disgruntled population is the last thing that the sitting government would want.
However, in its anxiety to be seen to be protecting workers, the state failed to realise that it was stepping into restless waters. Some of the provisions in the bill obviously need to be revisited. They include allowing workers retrenched after the July 17 Supreme Court ruling to get some send-off benefits, while employees who would be retrenched in the future should get at least a month’s salary for every year served in circumstances where they worked for more than two years.
This is good for workers, granted, but business is saying it is bad for employers because the costs involved would worsen the viability problems they are facing at the moment – and ultimately push them under, in which case there would be no jobs anyway. If the problems persist, production will suffer and once that happens, more industries are likely to crumble.
On the other hand, potential investors will continue to stay away because they are afraid that they could also collapse because of high labour costs.
This dilemma does not need unilateral decisions and arrogance on the part of government. It needs an all-stakeholder approach presented through the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF).

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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