Friday, November 27, 2015

The Zimbabwe Rural District Council Workers’ Union (ZRDCWU) has filed a constitutional application challenging the recently passed Labour Amendment Bill, arguing it gives more power to the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and thus infringes on the union members’ constitutional rights.

BY CHARLES LAITON

The challenged Bill, which was sponsored by Labour minister Prisca Mupfumira, was published and became law in August this year, thus substantively amending various provision of the Labour Act.

ZRDCWU secretary-general James Gumbi said the provisions that were amended, among others, included Section 120 (7-11), which dealt with investigations of trade unions and employers organisations and Section 72 (2)(b), which dealt with grounds upon which a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) could be nullified or denied registration.

In his founding affidavit in a matter filed yesterday, Gumbi argued the said amendments to the Labour Act infringed on unions members’ right to organise, right to collective bargaining, freedom of association and right to protection of the law.




“In terms of Section 120 (7)(b), the minister now has power pending the determination of the Labour Court application to appoint an administrator, who has power to ‘exercise all power of a substantive administrator until the provisional administrator’s appointment is confirmed by the Labour Court’,” Gumbi said.

He further argued Section 120 (7)(c) further validated the acts of the provincial administrator even if the court declines to appoint such a provisional administrator, adding it grants the administrator immunity of any unlawful or illegal acts conducted during his term of office.

“This, in effect, authorises the minister to interfere with operations of a trade union and employer organisation without following due process and creates a window for the executive to determine the operation of the labour movement, and impose an Executive of its choice on the labour movement,” he argued.

“The hallowed rights of workers to organise and negotiate their employment conditions have now been, or run the risk of being terminated by the minister’s new wide powers to appoint virtual curators to trade unions, employer organisations and employment councils.”

Turning to the issue of CBAs in the amended law, Gumbi said the amendment to Section 79 (2)(b) of the Labour Act, which provides that a CBA may be denied registration, if in the opinion of the minister, it is contrary to public interest, was in contravention of Section 65 (5)(a) of the Constitution.

“The amendment takes away the interpretation of this legal principle and places it in the hands of a member of the Executive who might not even have legal expertise,” he said.

“The amendment allows the minister to bar collective bargaining agreements by virtue of mere opinion without affording the parties to the agreement an opportunity to make any submissions or be heard . . . the Executive is now meddling in the covenants of citizens with no jurisdiction.”

He added: “The limitation imposed by the amendment is not fair, reasonable, necessary or justifiable in a democratic society based on openness justice, human dignity, equality and freedom.”

The matter is yet to be set down for hearing and ZRDCWU is represented by Lawman Chimuriwo.

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