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The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) joins the rest of the World in commemorating International Workers’ Day on May 1. The ZHRC reiterates that workers’ rights are human rights that should be protected, promoted and enforced in line with the Constitution.  As Zimbabwe and the rest of the world celebrates this day also known as the Labour Day or May Day in other parts of the World, the ZHRC takes this opportunity to reflect on both the major milestones achieved in the betterment of workers’ rights in Zimbabwe as well as the challenges they continue to face.

The ZHRC continues to applaud the government and the people of Zimbabwe for crafting and adopting a Constitution which has a wide scope for human rights protection, including labour rights which are provided for in Section 65 and encompass, among others: the right to fair and safe labour practices and standards, the right to be paid a fair and reasonable wage, the right to fair and satisfactory conditions of work as well as the right to form and join trade unions. The ZHRC therefore urges the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare to expedite the alignment of the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01) and related labour instruments to the Constitution.

The rights provided for in Section 65 of the Constitution are in line with international labour standards and norms as developed and adopted over the years within the auspices of The International Labour Organisation (ILO). In particular, the Constitution embodies the letter and spirit of the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work which sets out four core labour standards that are binding on all ILO member states: freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining; elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; effective abolition of child labour; and elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. These four core labour standards are regarded as fundamental human rights and freedoms that apply universally.

As we celebrate this important day for workers, the ZHRC notes with concern, however,  that due to the prevailing depressed and distressed economic environment, workers in the country, both in the formal and informal sectors continue to face immense challenges negatively impacting on their livelihoods. These challenges include involuntary retrenchments, wages pegged below the poverty datum line, late payment of salaries and sexual harassment of women at the workplace. The Commission recognises the challenges which informal traders continue to face such as confiscation of goods and wares by municipal police for alleged violations of municipal by laws and general harassment by the said police. The Commission urges municipal authorities to regularize the operations of informal traders.

From a synopsis of the complaints it receives, the Commission observes that labour related complaints feature prominently. Some of the common cases relate to unfair dismissals, non-payment of wages and constructive dismissals. From the backlog of cases inherited from the abolished Public Protector, the Commission is greatly concerned about the challenges being faced by pensioners in accessing their pensions as many employers fail to pay up the lump sums and other related entitlements due to workers upon retirement.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission calls upon employers both in the public and private sectors to continue to safe guard workers’ rights. Furthermore, the ZHRC reminds employers that, in line with Section 65 (subsections 6 and 7) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, women employees are not only entitled to equal pay for similar work, but they also have a right to fully paid maternity leave for a period of at least three months.

For more information please contact:

Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission

3 Elcombe Rd

Belgravia

Harare

Tel: +263 4 4 700705/ 700705/ 700533

ZHRC Press Statement on the International Workers’ Day – 01 May 2015