16 February 2017

Zimbabwe: Differences Rock Tnf Ahead of ILO Visit

CONFUSION has rocked the Tripartite Negotiation Forum (TNF) as indicated by contradicting sentiments from government, labour and business over compliance in the implementation of recommendations made at the 2016 International Labour Organisation (ILO) conference.

The ILO high level delegation is due to visit Zimbabwe next month to assess progress made in implementing the recommendations.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), a key stakeholder in the TNF, said no concrete agreements had been reached at TNF.

However, government has refuted the claim, with the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare permanent secretary, Ngoni Masoka, saying that considerable strides had been made in implementing the ILO recommendations.

"A lot of positive developments have taken place in Zimbabwe to give effect to ratified ILO conventions, including labour law reforms, strengthening of social dialogue through legislation of the TNF. More importantly, there has been considerable stability within the labour market in 2016 as evidenced by reduced strikes, demonstrations or public disorder occasioned by labour matters. The high level mission, therefore, avails a great opportunity for the government to showcase the progress that it continues to make to make decent work a reality, in the context of Zim-Asset and the Zimbabwe Decent Work Country Programme.

"The Government of Zimbabwe is in the process of finalising modalities for the high level mission in liaison with the ILO," Masoka told the Financial Gazette's Companies & Markets (C&M).

He said some of the notable developments included a Cabinet resolution in December 2016 to further amend the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01) to mainly give effect to ratified ILO conventions, particularly those on freedom of association and collective bargaining. He said that in the area of collective bargaining, the principles address the need to streamline ministerial powers relating to the administrative oversight of trade unions and employment councils to give greater scope for employers and workers to manage their bipartite affairs.

"Given that Cabinet's (resolution) was based on recommendations from the TNF, this demonstrates the existence of mutual understanding and closer cooperation between government and the social partners. As the government has reiterated within the ILO, Public Order and Security Act (POSA) does not apply to trade union activities in terms of the Labour Act and is therefore not within the purview of ongoing labour law reforms. At the same time, government highlights that at no time has POSA been used to undermine bona fide trade union activities," said Masoka.

He pointed out that the revision of the Special Economic Zones Bill in September 2016 to ensure better protection of workers' rights for those to be employed in designated zones was initiated at the request of workers' organisations and was facilitated through the TNF.

Masoka maintained that throughout 2016, government and the social partners continued to work together very closely with a view to sharing information and trends within the labour market so as to establish a climate of mutual understanding as recommended by the International Labour Conference in 2016.

"It is in this context that in December 2016, the TNF resuscitated negotiations towards a new social contract for the management of the totality of Zimbabwe's macro-economic policy environment. The TNF secretariat is thus currently working on various proposals on the form of the social contract, which will be subject to adoption by the government and their counterparts from business and labour within the first quarter of 2017," he added.

But ZCTU secretary general, Japhet Moyo, dismissed Masoka's statements, saying the purported Labour Act amendment has been very slow, reflecting unwillingness by government and lack of political will to make necessary reforms as recommended by the ILO Committee of Experts on standards.

"Since 2009 when the first report was made, we are still talking about the same issues and with new breaches having been recorded again. To us, the current movement is meant to pacify the ILO Mission coming into the country. There is also no guarantee that the current process would adhere to what we agreed because from our experience, government unilaterally changes what would have been agreed on," he said.

Turning on the SEZ, he said the final draft left out most of the things that were agreed on.

Contrary to government's claims, Moyo said strikes or demonstrations were stifled by police interference trough sections of POSA throughout 2016.

He dismissed the claim that government and the social partners continued to work together very closely with a view to sharing information in order to establish a climate of mutual understanding as recommended by the ILO in 2016.

"This is a broad statement which has no meaning especially if one looks at the pace in which the government drags its feet on all the issues. The State has just closed all ZCTU accounts using Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and refused to accept our payment plan for our obligations which are actually in dispute," he explained.

Moyo hinted that government wanted to continue getting money under the pretext of technical assistance while the victims like workers get nothing. He insisted that law enforcement agencies continued to disregard the ILO standards.

The TNF is Zimbabwe's social dialogue platform that brings together government, business and labour to negotiate over key socio-economic matters. The TNF has been in existence since 1998 as a voluntary and unlegislated chamber in which socio-economic matters are discussed and negotiated by the social partners.

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