Parliament on Friday presented five Bills, including the ‘contentious’ Labour Relations (Amendment)which, among other things, seeks to empower employers to deduct wages from striking workers.
All the Bills were referred to relevant committees for further input.
The Bills (Amendments) included Bill 17 of 2021 Employment, Bill 18 of 2021 Political Parties, Bill 21 0f 2021Depositors Insurance, Bill 19 of Constitutional (Amendment) Bill.
Presenting the Bill on Labour Relations, deputy minister of Labour Vera Kamtukule told the House that there is need to balance between a person’s right to stage a strike and the need for the country’s economy to continue performing.
Said Kamtukule: “The Bill seeks to clarify the categories of essential services to which the right to strike and lockdown does not apply, and do away with the requirement of employer and employee panellists in the Industrial Relations Court”
According to the minister, there are over 5 000 unresolved cases at the Industrial Relational Court as a result of not having employer or employee as panellists during settling of disputes.
But in a press release issued on Friday, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) observed that some of the amendments being proposed pose a serious threat to workers’ rights, including the right to take industrial action.
CHRR executive director Michael Kaiyatsa said the Bill should be withdrawn pending consultations, adding that the proposed Section 2(4) of the Act, which allows an employer to withhold wages of an employee who participates in a strike, should be scrapped off.
Said Kaiyatsa: “CHRR finds that there is no justification for removing the current protection for employees who participate in industrial action or strike. By giving employers vast powers to withhold employees’ wages at will, CHRR fears that the proposed amendments will be open to abuse.”
Taking his turn, Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo who presented the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, informed the House that the Bill provides for a requirement for political parties manifestoes to be aligned to the country’s development agenda 2063.
Mvalo also presented another Constitutional (Amendment) Bill which, among others, will introduce the office of deputy chief justice, appointment of judges on fixed-term contracts, improve on the appointment criteria for judges and align dissolution of local councils to that of National Assembly which falls on June 23 in the election year.
The Bill also proposes to amend Section 147 of the Constitution to correct an error as Parliamentary Service Commission and its organ Parliamentary Service were omitted and not established within the Constitution. The Bill, therefore, elevates the status of the two offices to constitutional status.
Other Bills, such as the Employment Bill, seeks to remove tenancy labour in tobacco industry within three years as well as introduce paternity leave across the board.
Leader of the House Chimwendo Banda told members that the tabling of five Bills in one day should not be mistaken for bulldozing but because Standing Orders of the House allow it.