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First report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare on the Labour Amendment Bill (H.B. 1, 2005)
Parliament of Zimbabwe
December 20
, 2005

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1.1 Mr. Speaker sir, the stated government intention of this Bill is to correct the problems encountered in the implementation of the Labour Relations Act Chapter 28:01 as amended by the Labour Relations Amendment Act, 2002 (Act No. 17 of 2002)

1.2 Your Committee embarked on a series of activities in its analysis of the Bill. Firstly the Committee members were educated on the principles of the Bill by a legal Advisor from the State University of New York / Zimbabwe (SUNY). The Committee then held a public hearing on the Bill with various stakeholders on the 16th August 2005, to gather their views on the Bill. The Committee also received oral evidence from the Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare officials on the same and then carried out a consideration of the evidence it had gathered, with a view toward strengthening it and making it more understandable and a practicable piece of legislation.

1.3 Mr. Speaker sir, the Labour Amendment Bill deals with several topics, the appointment of a Chairperson of a Works Council at a workplace, retrenchments from employment, notice periods for termination of employment, appointment of officials to Advisory Councils, powers of the registrar of trade unions, maternity leave conditions and Application of the Act as well as functions and jurisdiction of the Labour Court.

1.4 The sponsoring Minister must be commended for coming up with this Bill and your Committee applauds the Ministry for including the following progressive provisions, giving the Labour Act supremacy over any other enactment inconsistent with it, increasing maternity leave from 90 days to 98 days for female employees who have served for at least one year in employment, repealing Section 22 of the Principal Act that gave the Minister powers to fix maximum wages, providing for negotiations on housing and transport facilities in collective bargaining agreements, providing that wages and benefits upon termination of employment shall not form part of the retrenchment package and repealing section 56 of the Export Processing Zones Act.

1.5 Mr. Speaker sir, your Committee set out to consider how best the proposed Bill could be structured, taking into account the various socio-economic and political factors at play in the country at present as well as the international treaties that our country has ratified, specifically the freedom of Association Convention 87 of 1947 which the Government of Zimbabwe ratified in the year 2003 which provides for freedom of association to worker organizations and convention 98 on the Right to organize and collectively bargain of 1948 which was ratified by our Government in 1998. The Committee also considered the fact that Zimbabwe is a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and is therefore obliged to adhere to principles of the ILO and thus sought to come up with suggestions on improving the application of the Bill that mirror the aforementioned.

2. General Commentary on the Bill
2.1 Mr. Speaker sir, the Bill makes it clear that one of its purposes is to repeal section 3 of the Labour Act and substitute a new section 3 which excludes certain categories of employees from the application of the Act. These are specifically members of the public service. Your committee heard two schools of thought on the implications of this provision. On the one hand the stakeholders from labour and industry cited that the exclusion of public servants from the application of the labour act defeats the objectives of harmonization, which were to bring together the fragmented Labour Laws and deprives public servants of their rights as workers. [The right to form and belong to trade unions of their choice, the right to free collective bargaining processes, the right to strike and the right to access alternative and effective dispute resolutions mechanisms]. This means that their fundamental right to form and belong to trade unions, to bargain collectively and to engage in collective job action will be taken away. On the other hand the Ministry argued that harmonization does not mean being housed or mentioned under the same Act of Parliament.Harmonisation denotes applicability of the same, similar and compatible principles governing labour regimes whether housed under the same or different Acts of Parliament. The Bill proposes to house civil servants under the Public Services Act. The current Labour Act gives "right to form and belong to Trade Unions of choice, the right to free collective bargaining processes, the right to strike and the right to access alternative and effective dispute resolution systems" to civil servants as much as it does to other employees. Your Committee was assured that there was a parallel process of amending the Public Service Act, which will transfer the principles in the Labour Act to the Public Service Act.

2.2 Mr. Speaker sir, your committee considered all the individual clauses of the Bill to ensure that a solid piece of legislation is passed in this August House. A piece of legislation that meets international standards and the regions best practices. Your Committee therefore suggests that some individual clauses and provisions of the Bill can be improved as indicated in this report.

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