President Robert Mugabe says the Labour Act, which was bulldozed through Parliament despite objections from the Parliamentary Legal Committee, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and employers, will be amended to address the concerns of the government’s social partners.
He said this in his speech for the official opening of the current session of Parliament which was messed up when he read the wrong speech before the right one was tabled in Parliament the following day.
“The Supreme Court ruling on the common law position regarding the termination of employment contracts triggered job losses,” Mugabe said.
“Regrettably, the compelling need to move with speed on the matter found the social partners rather unprepared. This resulted in some of their proposed amendments not being factored in at the time the Labour Amendment Bill was tabled in Parliament. Government, nonetheless, remains committed to take on board the social partners’ concerns for further amendment of the Labour Act.”
The government went into panic after more than 20 000 workers lost their jobs in three weeks following the Supreme Court ruling on 17 July 2015.
The government stepped in and bulldozed the Labour Amendment Bill through the National Assembly and the Senate though there were objections to Clause 18 of the bill that said workers who had been fired should be compensated retroactively to 17 July.
Law watchdog, Veritas said there were also problems with the Labour Amendment Act because Clause 18 had been altered several times after being passed by both houses of Parliament.
“Clause 18 of the Bill, as passed by the Senate, read as follows: ‘18 Transitional provision Section 12 of this Act applies to every employee whose services were terminated on three months’ notice on or after the 17th July, 2015.’
“When the Bill was gazetted as Act No. 5 of 2015 on the 26th August, the same provision had somehow been altered to read as follows: ‘18 Transitional provision Section 12 of the Labour Act [Chapter 28:01] as amended by this Act applies to every employee whose services were terminated on three months’ notice on or after the 17th July, 2015.’
“Two days later, on 28th August, Parliament gazetted the Finance Bill, which includes a clause that will change section 18 of the Labour Amendment Act yet again, to make it read as follows: ‘18 Transitional provision- The Labour Act [Chapter 28:01] as amended by this Act applies to every employee whose services were terminated on three months’ notice on or after the 17th July, 2015. [i.e., the words “Section 12 of” at the beginning of the present section 18 are omitted]’
“The changes which this chameleon-like provision has undergone and probably will undergo raise at least three questions:
“Was the first alteration valid, since it was made to the Bill after it had been passed by Parliament?
“What is the effect of the amendment proposed by the Finance Bill?
“Why is the Finance Bill, which should deal with taxation and other financial matters, amending labour legislation?”
Veritas the said the flip-flopping by the government had left the Act open to challenge but Mugabe’s statement acknowledges that the government will have to take in the views of its social partners including the labour movement, which was not happy with the Act as well.