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ZCTU calls on Parly to reject Health Services Bill

By Own Correspondent

ZIMBABWE Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has urged parliament to reject the passing of the Health Services Act Bill for lack of widespread consultations and suppressing workers’ rights in a manner which violates international best practices.

In a paper submitted during the bill’s public hearings, ZCTU criticised the proposed law for failing to recognise the right to collective bargaining which is constitutionally guaranteed.

The union says such an anomaly falls far short of the ILO’s Conference Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) and the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) which has always urged Zimbabwe to revise or repeal the Public Service Act and the Health Services Act to allow these group of workers to enjoy their full rights.

The federation said the government has even acknowledged that shortcoming and committed to a re-organisation exercise of the health sector to address the challenges including those faced during the COVID-19 period.

“Surprisingly, this bill was not brought before the Tripartite Negotiation Forum for consideration which is a violation of the TNF Act No. 3 of 2019 in particular section 3 (2) (f) which provides among other functions of the TNF, to ‘consult and negotiate Zimbabwe labour laws in line with the Constitution and other international best practices,” said the ZCTU.

In this respect, Parliament is being called upon to enact a law whose original process violates another law, the TNF Act.

“Parliament is hereby called upon to refuse to pass this bill and refer it back to the TNF for negotiations that take into consideration the constitution and international best practices. The Amendment has a lot of omissions,” said ZCTU.

Specifically, the ZCTU said section 16A (3) prescribes criminal penalties of a fine not exceeding level 10 or imprisonment to three years or both such fine and such imprisonment to individual member of the governing body of any trade union or representative body of members of the Health Service which incites or organises any job collective action contrary to the procedures laid down.

“This section does not comply with the best  international  labour principles binding on Zimbabwe through its ratification of  ILO convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948 (No. 87) and collective Bargaining, 1949, (No. 98)  ratified by Zimbabwe on 9April 2003 and 27 August 1998 respectively,” the ZCTU said.

The federation argued that subjecting workers to imprisonment will result in the contravention of ILO Convention on the Abolition of Forced Labour, 1957 (No.105) to which Zimbabwe was censored during the 2021 International labour Conference.

Article 1 of the convention does not allow the use of imprisonment as a means for labour discipline or as a punishment for having participated in a strike.

Said ZCTU,: “Responsibility for declaring a strike illegal should not lie with the government, but with an independent body which has the confidence of the parties involved. To declare a strike or work stoppage illegal, the judicial authority is best placed to act as an independent authority,”

The workers’ organ argued that no one should be penalised for carrying out or attempting to carry out a legitimate strike, especially peaceful strikes as such legislative provisions which impose sanctions in relation to the threat of strike are contrary to freedom of expression and principles of freedom of association.

“When trade unionists or union leaders are dismissed for having exercised the right to strike, the Committee can only conclude that they have been punished for their trade union activities and have been discriminated against. Penal sanctions should only be imposed as regards strikes where there are violations of strike prohibitions which are themselves in conformity with the principles of freedom of association. All penalties in respect of illegitimate actions linked to strikes should be proportionate to the offence or fault committed and the authorities should not have recourse to measures of imprisonment for the mere fact of organising or participating in a peaceful strike,” said ZCTU.

@ The Worker

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