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Labour Amendment Bill “deceptive, dangerous” says Munyaradzi Gwisai

By Munyaradzi Gwisai

The Labour Amendment Bill, gazetted on Friday 14 August 2015, is a deceptive, dangerous and neoliberal legislation that will escalate the loss of jobs by workers, not just for today but well into the future.

Munyaradzi Gwisai
Munyaradzi Gwisai

The supposed reprieve it gives the 20 000 dismissed workers is cosmetic. Workers will now get a retrenchment package, but only of two weeks’ salary for every year of service. This means a worker of six years’ service will only get three months’ salary

So what is the difference with what the Supreme Court ruled in Nyamande and Donga vs Zuva Petroleum (Pvt) Ltd, [the recent decision by the Supreme Court that has seen many people losing their jobs].

Whereas currently, if workers and employers disagreed in the Workers Council, the dispute was referred to the Retrenchment Board, the Board on average gave a retrenchment package of 1 to 2 months’ salary as service pay; plus 3 to 6 months as severance pay; plus 1 month salary as relocation allowance.

The first version of the Bill had provided that Workers Councils and Employment Councils were to prescribe standard retrenchment packages. This has been removed under HB 7 of 2015, which states that in case of disagreement, all the employer has to pay is service pay of 2 weeks’ pay for every year of service, but no severance pay or relocation allowance.

This is exactly what has been demanded by employers, “investors”, Chinese capitalists and the IMF.

Further, employers may even apply for exemption from this paltry sum!

This is going to be disastrous for workers and the poor. Thousands more jobs are going to be massacred after the Bill becomes law.

The Bill is part of the general neoliberal war by this government against workers, vendors, rural farmers, students, residents and the poor.

Also in preparation for massive attacks on government workers, the Bill does not provide for harmonization of the Labour Act and Public Service Act, so that workers in the public and private sectors are covered by one law, as called for by the new Constitution.

The government and employers have been encouraged to escalate their attacks on workers because of the weak and divided response of workers and the unions.

The 8 August demonstrations were too small and weak. The fact that the State has recalled Parliament to pass the Bill shows however, that they are not so confident and can be taken on.

A powerful response and mobilization by workers and the unions this coming week, including joint labour forums and more united demonstrations, as Parliament debates the Bill, can stop the bosses and the politicians.

But are the union leaders up to it or they are more interested in continuing their little turf and ego wars?

Munyaradzi Gwisai is a law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe and the General Coordinator for the International Socialist Organisation in Zimbabwe. He runs a law firm that represents aggrieved workers who, most times cannot afford a lawyer.