Nqobile Tshili Chronicle Correspondent
WORKERS unions yesterday said companies that are sacking their employees were reversing the gains of independence and working against the developmental aspirations of the country.
Over 7,000 people have lost their jobs since the Supreme Court ruled a fortnight ago that workers can be fired without being offered packages after being given three months’ notice.
On Monday, the same court ruled that employers are not obliged to pay allowances to their employees.
Yesterday trade unionists urged the government to swiftly revise the country’s labour laws saying they were unjust.
Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union general secretary Peter Mutasa said the Supreme Court ruling, although correct, was subjecting workers to exploitation.
“It’s a mess and exploitation. I couldn’t think of this happening in independent Zimbabwe. People lived through this during the colonial era. This led the likes of Burombo (Benjamin) and Joshua Nkomo (the late Vice President) to go on strike against the National Railways of Zimbabwe (then Rhodesian Railways) in 1948,” said Mutasa.
“Let’s go back to our original thinking. What are the aspirations and values of the country? Parliamentarians, the Cabinet and judiciary must prioritise national issues over individual issues. It’s a matter of values. This is the reason why any government in the world will deal with this problem.”
He said the ruling on termination of employment will expose women to sexual harassment at the workplace, something the country had successfully fought against.
“Labour laws had advanced the protection of women in the workplace. This ruling will wipe away all these protections. If a woman refuses sexual advances towards her, she can be given three month notice and fired without looking at the real issue. We’ve regressed as a nation and time will convict all of us,” added Mutasa.
He said crimes such as drug abuse and theft are likely to sky rocket as more people are left jobless.
Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions official Jacob Rice said the sacking of workers will further worsen government revenue collection, which is already low.
“This will make the economy suffer in the sense that the small number of people who were formally employed are the ones whose contracts are being terminated. They were contributing pay as you earn to the fiscus. It’s like killing the goose that brings the golden eggs,” said Rice.
He said although Supreme Court judges were correctly interpreting the law, the country’s Constitution must be taken into account.
“The President must invoke his special powers to end this while legislation is being reviewed. The Labour Act should be interpreted in cognisance of Section 3, Section 56 and Section 65 of the constitution which stipulate that each and every employee has a right to be consulted on matters concerning them,” he said.