Govt tweaks labour laws
MOYO 2 HOURS AGO GOVERNMENT has tweaked labour laws to allow the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and ferro-alloy industry employees who have been casual workers for over two consecutive years, to be deemed permanently employed. Statutory Instrument 88 of 2017 covers ferro-alloy industry employees while SI 92 of 2017 pertains to GMB workers. SI 88 was gazetted on August 4 while SI 92 was promulgated on August 11. The SIs are part of a raft of measures adopted by Government recently to improve the working conditions of employees across various sectors of the economy. SI 88 says any employees that have done three years’ continuous service under fixed-term contracts are now deemed to be under contracts “without limit of time”. Similarly, SI 92 allows GMB workers with fixed-term contracts, who have served continuously for two years, to become permanent employees from the date of initial engagement. The intervention brings relief to workers who were being hired on three months renewable contracts by companies but for a longer period and would go empty-handed by the time they are dismissed. Many sectors, particularly agriculture, food and clothing, have been accused by trade unions of exploiting employees by making them work for over 20 years but on fixed term contracts. Most of them have struggled to raise transport fares to their rural homes after contracts were terminated, mostly due to old age. Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary-general Mr Japhet Moyo told The Sunday Mail Business last week that they welcome the decision by Government, adding that it was long overdue. “. . . if there is any interpretation (of the law) that says ‘if a person has worked for three years, or whatever period on a fixed term contract, they become permanent’; we welcome that. That is what we want. “In terms of what it means to our economy, that is another debate but I think a person cannot be condemned to that arrangement for the whole of his life. “You cannot even plan because you can be fired any day, any hour. Workers should plan, marry and decide in which city to stay because they are sure that they are at work,” said Mr Moyo. During the time when Nicholas Goche was Minister of Labour, about 13 principles were signed and one of them deals with casualisation of labour. At that time, National Employment Councils (NEC) were responsible for resolving issues pertaining to fixed term contracts, on a sector by sector basis. Mr Moyo said that arrangement has remained in the Labour Act. “But our position is that a person cannot be on a fixed contract for 20 years; that is not what we believe in,” said Mr Moyo. However, the move to upgrade fixed term employees and make them permanent might fall foul with employers, who have in the past claimed that they cannot hire staffers permanently because of a difficult operating environment. Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) executive director Mr John Mufukare could not be reached for comment as his mobile was not reachable by the time of going to print.