ZCTU appeals to President Mugabe
THE country’s main labour union, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), has written to President Robert Mugabe, urging the veteran politician to refer back to Parliament the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Bill.
Specifically, ZCTU wants some clauses that violate labour rights to be deleted from the Bill. SEZ are areas in which business and trade laws differ from the rest of the country. Located within a country’s national borders, SEZs are meant to increase trade and investment as well as generating more jobs.
The SEZ Bill has since sailed through Parliament and now awaits presidential assent to become law.
ZCTU is, however, worried about some clauses which exempt investors licensed in the zones from complying with provisions of the Labour Act.
The union has been one of the leading forces in the anti-SEZ campaign, but failed to convince Parliament on the matter in April this year.
The labour body has now launched a last ditch attempt to stop the President from signing the Bill into law.
In a letter to President Mugabe, dispatched through the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Prisca Mupfumira, and copied to the chief secretary to President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, ZCTU expressed its reservations over the Bill.
“We are deeply concerned about clause 56 (1) (2) of the SEZ Bill, which provides that the Labour Act Chapter 28; 01 shall not apply in relation to licensed investors operating in SEZs. Such a law will leave our workers without protection as terms of employment will be determined by the Special Economic Zones Authority which may consult with the Minister responsible for the administration of the Labour Act Chapter 28;01,” reads the letter in part.
The labour body also advised the President to consider the fact that section 65 of the Constitution provides for the fundamental rights of workers, which are more elaborated in the Labour Act hence making it unnecessary to create another set of regulations to govern SEZs.
ZCTU has refuted speculation that their concerns were merely meant to stifle the country’s economic growth and maintained that they are just protecting workers.
“Kindly note that we are not against government policy to develop the economy through the establishment of the SEZ, but we believe that any economic policy must be human-centred and provide protection to the citizens. Giving investors an incentive to suspend our labour laws may result in unintended consequences of workers exploitation by the investors,” reads the letter.
The business community has reacted differently to the issue, with the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce President, Davison Norupiri, applauding the initiative.
“This will boost investor confidence and bring about sanity and order in business,” said Norupiri in May this year.
“We also appeal to government to continuously support these Special Economic Zones so that we do not end up abandoning them. If they have worked in other countries, I do not see any reason why they would not work here in Zimbabwe.”
Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe president, Josephat Kahwema, said they would not accept the SEZ Bill without discussion.
“The Minister promised to discuss the issues related to the zones because the International Labour Organisation does not allow exemption of a group of employees from the national labour laws,” he said.
Contacted for comment, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Prisca Mupfumira, promised to look into the matter.
“I understand that the labour fraternity raised important issues concerning the working conditions for employees who will operate in the zones and I promised them that all their concerns will be addressed,” she said.
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