Strikes and The Law
Restrictive provisions to the right to strike
The right to strike is restricted by Zimbabwe Labour Law as there are a number of requirements in the law. For workers to strike, more than 50% of the workers must vote for a strike and this will be followed by 30 day conciliation period and the possibility of binding arbitration.
Workers are of the opinion that if negotiations fail each party should be allowed to use the power at their disposal. The only weapon the employee can use is the right to strike.
As a result of the restrictive provisions many strikes have been declared illegal. Workers can not exercise the right to strike if they do not follow the procedures.
In addition, the Labour Amendment Act does not include provisions that prohibit employers from hiring replacement workers in the event of a strike.
Criminalisation of the right to strike
The current provisions relating to damage caused to property through an “illegal strike” imposes criminal sanctions on workers’ representatives who would have facilitated the strike. There is no immunity for workers’ representatives.
The labour system in the country separates workers in the private sector, public sector, health services, police and the army. "Essential" employees are prohibited by law from striking, and the government defines all public sector workers as essential.
Managers also are prohibited from striking. The government also considers some private sector workers, such as those in the health sector, as essential workers.
For the remaining nonessential employees to conduct a strike legally, more than 50 percent of the company's employees must vote in favor of the action. Many employees are afraid to do so, for fear of management reprisals.
However, if a majority vote is obtained, the dispute is referred to the concerned government agency for resolution.
Only if the government-appointed arbitrator determines that a resolution is not possible is the right to strike granted.
These government-imposed delays prevent most employees and their unions from ever declaring legal strikes. However, illegal strikes or work stoppages have occurred within individual companies and occasionally, in entire industries.
Absence of guidelines for the conciliation process
The Labour Act does not define conciliation, and there are no guidelines and prescribed rules on how to conduct conciliation.
In addition, the competency and scope of powers of conciliators is unclear, unlike in other countries such as Botswana.
Absence of an independent panel of conciliators
It is useful to get an independent panel which does not restrict conciliation to labour officers.
It is very difficult to conduct legal collective job action. There is no right to strike in the Constitution.
In 2002 government passed the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) which bans any public gathering without police permission. The organisers of the public gatherings must apply for permission at least four days in advance and there is no guarantee that this will be approved by the police.
Anyone found guilty of disturbing the peace, security or order faces up to 10 years in prison or a fine.
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