Tripartite Negotiating Forum Bill to improve labour relations
THE Attorney General’s Office has come up with a draft Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) Bill as part of Government efforts to give the forum legal status.
The move is expected to improve labour relations between employers, workers and the Government and facilitate tackling of diverse socio-economic issues affecting the economy.
Public Service Labour and Social Services Deputy Minister Tapiwa Matangaidze said a legalised TNF presents a unique opportunity for social dialogue between the three parties.
He said the forum has over the years continued to be underutilised because of the absence of a legal grounding.
“I have no doubt that collective efforts, through the TNF, can present the most feasible route to addressing challenges under discussion.
“It is pleasing that the Attorney General’s Office has produced a final TNF draft Bill as part of legislative developments to give the forum a legal personality,” said the Deputy Minister.
“It is believed such a status will give the TNF better legal authority that is to be respected, binding and implementable all the time.”
The draft takes into account concerns and input from stakeholders particularly Government’s social partners, business and labour in the TNF.
The TNF is seen as the bedrock in facilitating effective dialogue for the establishment and strengthening of institutions such as the mooted National Productivity Institute, National Employment Councils and implementation of the principles of the Kadoma Declaration on a shared national socio-economic vision.
Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda is also on record as saying the TNF operations need to be backed by an Act of Parliament so as to ensure its credibility.
“I therefore invite business members to continue to participate in the TNF where broader issues in the socio-economic domain can be addressed through consultation and negotiation with all relevant stakeholders,” said Matangaidze.
Workers and employers of late view each other with suspicion following the massive retrenchments that followed last year’s Supreme Court ruling which gave the latter the greenlight to fire workers on three months’ notice.
While labour forms part of the cost drivers in the Zimbabwean economy, the Deputy Minister said it was important to award workers high wages to stimulate demand that will sustain productivity and increase markets for companies.
“Increased productivity can only be sustained by sufficient demand in both the domestic and export market, which demand is supported by a capacitated market employing higher labour costs,” Matangaidze said.
“This clearly points to a need to balance labour costs and productivity.”
He revealed that in the medium to long term, his ministry would facilitate the establishment of a Zimbabwe productivity institute which would undertake productivity research and productivitybased remuneration.
Matangaidze urged stakeholders to look at cost competitiveness more objectively and holistically.
To him labour market is not the foremost concern in terms of production constraints but access to finance, open market, infrastructure and unaccountability, red tape and corruption.
Deputy Minister Matangaidze recently engaged captains of industry in Bulawayo on the impact of labour costs on export competitiveness where he stressed the need for dialogue.
He, however, said managing labour costs alone “cannot be the panacea to improving cost competitiveness”.
“It is common cause that export competitiveness is central to our country’s turn around strategies. It is also common cause that the Government prioritises the workplace as an important factor in this initiative. It is fundamentally appreciated that labour costs must be properly managed in line with the available resources taking due consideration of employee rights, conditions of work and service, industrial productivity and cost competitiveness,” said Matangaidze.
He said while unit labour costs were an indicator of competitiveness, this should not increase faster than productivity.
“In essence we are saying that we can improve our export competitiveness by either decreasing labour costs and or increasing productivity. Should labour costs go faster than labour productivity, our cost competitiveness could suffer unless the growth is compensated for by simultaneously reducing other cost areas,” said Matangaidze.
He explained that the Government has maintained a flexible stance on labour to allow the market to determine the wages per sector, employment terms and termination packages.