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Business, labour sign bipartite memorandum amid TNF anxiety

Emcoz president Demos Mbauya

BUSINESS and labour recently signed a memorandum towards a bipartite social contract amid concerns over the effectiveness of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) platform in addressing the country’s challenges.

The TNF is a social dialogue platform that brings together government, business and labour to negotiate key socio-economic matters. It has been in existence since 1998, initially as a voluntary and unlegislated chamber in which socioeconomic matters were discussed and negotiated by the partners. The TNF was legislated in June 2019.

 Addressing journalists during the signing of the contract yesterday, Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe president Demos Mbauya said the signing of the memorandum between business and labour was “historic” as it was the first time in industrial relations in the country that there had been such an agreement which would provide a platform to address the country’s myriad challenges which include currency distortions, frequent power outages and high levels of poverty.

“Business and labour came together to sign this historic memorandum   that will provide a guideline and framework for the social partners to collaborate,” Mbauya said.

He added that the signing of the bipartite memorandum was not a snub of the TNF but was meant to build a platform to enhance the operations of the tripartite legislative body.

He said despite the progress that has been made in promoting tri-partisan at TNF and the willingness by labour and business to be part of the solution to the country’s crisis, the TNF has fallen short in driving inclusivity and collective ownership on major national policies.

“We are far from where we should be as TNF,” Mbauya noted.

“It is one thing to have a legal framework and show willingness to work together, it is another to execute and show our constituents that the TNF is working.”

 He said the government as a partner in the TNF needed to show sincerity in achieving the objectives of the tripartite legislative body.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president Florence Taruvinga said organised labour was concerned that the institutional capacity of the TNF remained very weak with critical national issues being addressed outside the tripartite legislative body.

ZCTU president Florence Taruvinga

She cited legislation such as the Health Services Bill which was not brought before the TNF despite its impact on workers in that it criminalises industrial action by health workers.

Taruvinga said the operating environment had become politically charged characterised by polarisation and mistrust between partners.  She accused the government of violating ILO conventions particularly around aspects of freedom of association which include harassment of trade union members.

 She said the failure by the TNF to implement the national minimum wage of US$150 which was agreed in September last year undermined the trust among social partners.

Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions secretary-general Kenias Shamuyarira said the TNF was currently dysfunctional at a time when it is supposed to provide solutions to the country’s challenges.

“We are not in a normal situation,’’ Shamuyarira said.

“What is needed is a serious convergence of putting our heads together and tackling the elephant in the room.”

The memorandum that was signed is based on four thematic areas which are, public trust and confidence building, price and currency stability, social protection and investment and decent job creation.

The TNF has in the past been characterised by disputes, finger–pointing and walkouts.

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