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Zimbabwe industry warns on labour law proposals

HARARE, Oct 11 – Zimbabwe\’s industry on Monday said proposed pro-worker legal reforms risk slowing the nascent economic recovery, calling the changes unrealistic with businesses still struggling to survive.

"Industry is recovering but very slowly. The recovery that is taking place now is nowhere what we envisaged when the Global Political Agreement was signed," Joseph Kanyekanye, president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries said, referring to a political deal concluded in February 2009.

"It\’s not going at the pace that we wanted. We had expected at least a double-digit growth and certainly last year some of us were quite optimistic that GDP would at least exceed 10 billion US dollars and we would build on that momentum."

The organisation argues that proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Act are biased toward workers and will stifle business.

Industry\’s main concerns are over expanded strike rights, paid study leave for up to a year, a ban on contract work beyond six weeks and increasing sick leave to six months on full pay.

"Inadvertently architects of such a scheme may actually cause further decline," said Kanyekanye, warning that "businesses are barely surviving."

CZI acknowledged that Zimbabwe salaries are low, but Kanyekanye said Zimbabwe could not hope to match first world labour principles after a decade of economic freefall that devastated the country.

The government revised its economic growth forecast from 5.4 percent to 8.1 percent on the back of increased tobacco production, but Kanyekanye said he expects a figure of 6-7 percent.

The 2009 agreement was a power-sharing deal concluded by veteran President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, now prime minister, following disputed elections.

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