25 May 2017

Zimbabwe: ZCTU Swallows Pride

Partners within the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) have finally broken the impasse that was threatening to derail the country's labour law reform process.

This follows a major climb down by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), which was putting spanners into the works.

The union had condemned the work of a consultant, Matsikidze and Mucheche Legal Practitioners, appointed to craft the Zero Draft Labour Bill, alleging that their appointment was unilateral.

ZCTU had also threatened to abandon the reform process under the pretext that the Bill contradicted most of the agreements arrived at by the social partners -- labour, government and employers.

But in a major voltae-face, the main labour union said it will now participate in the labour law reform process under the TNF.

"The impasse was broken after the authorities agreed to have our views incorporated," said ZCTU's secretary general, Japhet Moyo.

The legal adviser for the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Precious Sibiya and Employers' Confederation of Zimbabwe president, Josephat Kahwema, also confirmed the development, which is key in finalising the labour law reform process.

"We shall be working together and we will not allow principles that were never discussed and agreed on to be smuggled into the Labour Bill," said Kahwema.

Despite the latest twist, suspicions remain rife among the social partners.

ZCTU is suspicious that government may have agreed to incorporate suggestions from the ZCTU to hoodwink the International Labour Organisation (ILO) ahead of its conference next month.

"This development could be meant to pacify the ILO and soon after that the focus would be on the 2018 election preparations," said Moyo.

It's not the first time that major concessions have been made ahead of key ILO events. On May 18, 2015, the social partners met after half a decade and pledged to work towards amending the Labour Act and other pieces of legislation compromising workers' rights.

That meeting was held almost a fortnight before that year's ILO conference.

Almost two months after the 2015 ILO conference, the Supreme Court passed the infamous July 17 ruling that saw thousands of workers losing their jobs.

Last year, the social partners met again a few weeks before the ILO conference and agreed on 13 principles that were to become the basis of the Labour Act amendment.

However, soon after the conference, the partners began to sing a different tune, hence the production of the contentious Zero Draft Labour Bill.

The ILO has recommended that there was need to urgently review the impact of the July 17 Supreme Court judgment and the Zero Draft Labour Bill.

It also urged government to reform the Public Service Act to allow civil servants to enjoy collective bargaining rights just like their counterparts in the private sector.

The ILO said the Public Order and Security Act should be amended such that it does not stifle workers rights to demonstrate.

Zimbabwe

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