ILO sends Zimbabwe back to the drawing board

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ILO sends Zimbabwe back to the drawing board

Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Prisca Mupfumira

Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Prisca Mupfumira

A HIGH-LEVEL mission from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that visited Zimbabwe last month has recommended that all partners to the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) should take part in drafting legislative amendments to the Labour Act, which should be tabled in Parliament by May.
The mission was in Zimbabwe between February 20 and 23.
In its report titled “Preliminary feedback and suggested steps forward”, the TNF was urged to review the impact of the July 17, 2015 Supreme Court judgment on workers’ rights to protection as well as instituting accompanying measures in the 2015 Labour Amendment Act.
The TNF, a social dialogue platform that brings together government, business and labour, has failed to expedite the amendments to the Labour Act despite the devastating effect it has had on thousands of workers who lost their jobs following the Supreme Court ruling that empowered employers to terminate workers’ contracts on three months’ notice.
The mission also recommended that the TNF Bill should be finalised and tabled in Parliament without further delay to show government’s commitment to social dialogue.
The TNF was advised to engage in bi-monthly meetings with agreed agendas starting with the discussion of a road map to implement the ILO recommendations that have clearly defined timeframes as guided by yet another document titled “Draft road map for the implementation of issues arising from the ILO High Level Mission” that the ILO team also provided.
The document has guidelines on how the recommendations made are to be implemented.
In line with the collation of statistical information on trade union discrimination, the ILO mission pledged to facilitate the creation of an electronic database with public access for transparency and assistance in effective follow up, gap identification and resolution concept by end of this month.
Government was also urged to put in place dissuasive sanctions against all forms of trade union discrimination, noting that timeframes for dispute resolution should not exceed 60 days before matters are brought before the courts.
The delegation also said awareness should be raised on clause 151 of the Public Service Act (PSA) to promote participative engagement on terms and conditions of employment for all civil servants. The draft amendment to the PSA should be tabled for discussion by TNF partners by May.
In reference to the Public Order Security Act, it was recommended that the role of the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Ministry must be established prior to actions to ensure it is not inappropriately applied to activities outside its scope.
It was noted that time limits should be given for response to notifications so that unions are not effectively barred from overturning refusal within the courts.
It was also recommended that there was need for police legal officers and public prosecutors to undergo training on labour issues.
Development Studies researcher, Vimbai Zinyama observed that despite the many commendable ILO recommendations, it is difficult to implement meaningful reforms through the concept of tripartism.
“The TNF structure is mono-centric and is jacketed by the norms and values underpinned by the ILO standards. This approach has centralised control in the hands of government which houses the secretariat. To that effect, unless the government calls for a meeting there shall be no deliberation .This places a hindrance on the speedy problem solving required in dealing with the country’s risk factors,” she said.
Typically most TNF meetings are convened just before the ILO conferences. In May 2015 government convened the TNF just a month before the conference. Towards the 2016 ILO conference the TNF produced a document stating that they had agreed on 13 principles of the Labour Act, but almost a year down the line nothing solid has been done. As the ILO visit last month approached, TNF partners from business, labour and government could not agree on the achievements made in implementing the ILO recommendations.
“There is no possibility that the roadmap will be implemented,” argued Passmore Nyakureba, a legal expert with a strong background in the country’s labour issues.

ZCTU secretary-general, Japhet Moyo

ZCTU secretary-general, Japhet Moyo

“To begin with, the ILO is just an international organisation whose mandate is not to decide what must happen on the labour terrain of any country. Whatever they have said in the past or what they are going to say now, are mere persuasive recommendations which may not be implemented. Honestly, if our government could not listen to advice from global institutions like the World Bank, what is the possibility of implementing advice from mere technocrats?” he asked.
Commenting on the possibility of government implementing the ILO recommendations, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary general, Japhet Moyo expressed doubts.
“It has been eight years since the last recommendations were made and the process to amend the Labour Act and the Public Service Act has been going forth and back. It would be wild to think that this time government would adhere to the deadlines set by the ILO supervisory bodies,” he said.
The net effect of Zimbabwe’s failure to comply is that the country would remain on the ILO agenda leading to the nation being considered “a country at risk for trade unionism”, which increases the risk factors for those who want to invest in the country.
Efforts to get a comment from government were fruitless as the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Ministry’s spokesperson, Constance Makoni said that she had not yet received comments from the relevant authorities at the time of going to print.
Since 2009, Zimbabwe has been found wanting in terms of labour rights with the ILO finding the southern African nation perennially guilty of violating workers rights.
The ILO has been noting clear patterns of arrests, detentions, violence and torture by security forces against unionists.
Despite similar recommendations having been made eight years ago, the situation remains the same.
Labour violations are still characteristic of Zimbabwe’s employment terrain, and in some cases the situation is getting worse.
Meanwhile the rapid informalisation of the economy is threatening the existence of trade unionism while parastatals are not remitting union dues to relevant trade unions.

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