Chakwera plotting to ban workers’ strike

The Tonse Alliance administration will table a bill which seeks to ban workers’ strike and give employers the right to deduct wages of striking workers.

Bill No. 16 of 2021: Labour Relations (Amendment) is expected to be tabled in Parliament today.

The Bill seeks to amend the Labour Relations Act in order to provide for an employer’s right to deduct wages from an employee who is on strike. It will also clarify the categories of essential services to which the right to strike and lockdown does not apply.

Section 46 has been amended to grant an employer the right to deduct wages of an employee who is on strike. Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe argues in a memorandum that the proposal is in line with International Labour Organization’s guidelines and international best practices which entitle an employer to respond to a strike by withholding wages from the employee on the basis of the principle of no work, no pay.

Section 46 of the Labour Relations Act will be amended by inserting after subsection (3), new subsections (4) and (5) as follows:

“(4) An employee shall not be entitled to receive wages for the period he is absent from work due to participation in a strike.

“(5) For purposes of this section, “wages” has the meaning ascribed to it under the Employment Act.”

Section 47 of the Act will be amended to do away with the requirement for the Industrial Relations Court to determine whether a service is essential and this power will be given to the minister.

“The Minister shall publish a list of essential services which may not go on strike or lockdown and provide compensatory guarantees for the listed essential services,” said Silungwe.

The bill also seeks to do away with the requirement of employer and employee panelists in the Industrial Relations Court. This restructuring entails amendment of sections 65, 66, and 67 of the Act which provide for the composition, quorum and decision, appointment and vacation respectively.

In the amended act, Section 69 on appointment and vacation of office and section 70 on allowances and expenses of members have been deleted because the Court shall have permanent staff only.

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