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Govt Bid To Pacify Labour Over SEZ Hits Snag

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By Dylan Murambgi

Harare, August 17, 2016 – GOVERNMENT’S efforts to pacify labour appeared to hit a snag Tuesday after the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) dismissed a letter written by the Labour Ministry's Permanent Secretary, Ngoni Masoka to his Macro-Economic Planning and Investment Promotion counterpart, Desire Sibanda suggesting that government wanted to amend the Special Economic Zones Bill.

Masoka copied the letter to the ZCTU, the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) and the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ) who are government’s partners in the tripartite negotiating forum (TNF).

In the letter, he said government should get the necessary support from the stakeholders before passing the Bill into law and needed to deal with Section 56 of the Bill, which sought to exempt companies in the SEZ’s from subscribing to the Labour Act Chapter 28:01.

But ZCTU Secretary General, Japhet Moyo, said they would press ahead with their plans to demonstrate against the proposed law saying the government was yet to communicate its position to them officially.

“Currently workers seem to be planning to air their displeasure and they want to do that by giving the Minister a petition after marching on the 20th of August. So until the Minister officially addresses us and say this is what we are doing as government, the demonstrations are on,” he said.

He said they wanted the government to give assurance that they would address the issues of workers’ rights and commit to amending the Bill or recall it, saying the issue was not just about jobs, but decent jobs.

“So we have challenges when we have fly by night analysts like Butler Tembo who believes we should just bring people in factories without looking at the quality of the jobs.

“It’s about decent jobs and dignity for workers not slavery,” he said.

Moyo  said government had remained mum on the issue  despite the fact that the ZCTU had written two letters while 12 of its affiliates who are affected by the SEZ had also written to the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Services, Priscah Mupfumira,  which she did not respond to.

“So this memo between the two ministries is merely copied to us but we have not been formally written to. They should have told us officially that they are looking at our issues, but we don’t know if it is pride that they feel they should not be seen to be giving in on the ZCTU because these are very clear issues which the Ministry agreed to at the International Labour Conference,” he said.

He said government should only consider reframing the Bill so that the SEZs were covered by the Labour Act Chapter 28:01 instead of trying to come up with other provisions to protect workers’ rights when the Labour Act in itself already had such provisions.

 

“We would have preferred that the Ministry narrows down on the issue that you cannot ouster the Labour Act from the special economic zones because it provides for the fundamental rights of workers. This is so because workers’ rights are already protected by the Labour Act Chapter 28:01,” he said.

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