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Zimbabwe Parliament Passes Workers' Protection Law

FILE - Workers are seen holding placards during a labor protest in Harare, Zimbabwe.

FILE - Workers are seen holding placards during a labor protest in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe's parliament has passed a new labor law, despite calls by the opposition, employers and workers to have it amended.

Zimbabwe’s opposition legislators walked out of parliament Thursday in protest after Labor Minister Prisca Mupfumira refused to incorporate their proposed amendments to a new labor law.

The opposition and employers said the new law, which awaits President Robert Mugabe's signature, would further scare investors away from Zimbabwe by making labor very expensive.

Workers say the new law gives too much power to the government to control unions. Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Secretary General Japhet Moyo said the unions were not consulted about the law.

“Our concern is that the government has decided not to involve other social partners. This was supposed to be done through the tripartite negotiating forum,” Moyo said.

The tripartite negotiating forum Moyo referred to is made up of the government, employers and workers.

But dismissing the opposition, Labor Minister Mupfumira said Zimbabwe's labor rules needed urgent attention. Last month, the country's Supreme Court ruled employers are allowed to fire workers with no severance as long as they give three months' notice.

Since then several companies, including some state-owned, have terminated workers and left them empty-handed.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions says more than 20,000 workers have been affected.

The new law says an employer can only terminate a contract by mutual agreement or if the employee has been found guilty of misconduct. Otherwise, workers who are dismissed receive two weeks' pay for every year they were employed.