The absence of a tripartite negotiating forum is proving too costly for the economy in the wake of increased suspicion and tensions among business, labour and government, experts have warned.
Government has taken too long to finalize the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) Bill that if passed into law is expected to bring parties to resolve issues such as labour disputes, the minimum wage conundrum and employer-worker relations.
“Zimbabwe has gone through several national go-slows, industrial action by civil servants and other related draw-backs which if there was a proper tripartite negotiating forum could have been resolved without stopping production and services,” labour legal expert, John Mawire told stakeholders at a Policy Dialogue Series that sought to unpack and engage the legislature on the TNF Bill, today.
“Collective job action cripples industry, it should be the last resort. So it can only be logical that we speed up this process because there should be a platform were these three come to an understanding,” added Mawire.
Zimbabwe has since last year witnessed a series of not-so-successful dialogues between the government and its employees while the same has gone unreported in the private sector and this has had serious negative effects on productivity in the economy.
Mawire also observed that while there was renewed energy among labor, business and Government, past experiences continue to accentuate distrust.
Government on one end accuses labour (Trade Unions) and Business of conniving with opposition parties to pursue political scores and profiteering to the extent of economic sabotage, while on the other end, labour and business point fingers with the former accusing employers of labour malpractice as wages continue to be eroded by the devaluation of the RTGS currency.
Recently Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Sekesai Nzenza said the TNF Bill is expected to be passed through the National Assembly by end of this month.
But Mutare Central legislator, Innocent Gonese believes a highly polarized triumvirate of labour, business and the government will find it difficult reaching consensus on issues owing to the harsh economic realities at play.
“Principles of Tripartite negotiating are important because without them, it is impossible to come to an understanding and right now labour has identified and rightly so that some of the major challenges are not economical but political,”
“At the present moment we are going through a difficult time as a country as a result of which there is polarization and in that environment it’s not easy for the three parties to work harmoniously because with the current economic challenges, employers and employees are not going to be able to easily come to a consensus or agreements on issues but the situation is compounded by that the government is primarily responsible for that state of affairs but it does not want to take responsibility,” said Gonese.
However the government has made strides in setting the stone rolling by establishing the Commercial Court that will help in dealing with such issues of economic nature like worker-employer disgruntlements in times of company mergers and takeovers.
The coming in of an efficient and capacitated TNF will also bring critical issues such as the minimum wage onto the negotiating table.
Zimbabwe last negotiated a minimum national wage back in 2001.