Transforming Zambia’s Workforce:

…Zambia’s Tripartite Consultative Labor Council (TCLC) convened to examine proposed amendments to the NAPSA Act, focusing on adjustments related to debt enforcement and penalties linked to non-compliance with contribution duties.

By Francis Maingaila

Lusaka, Zambia24 (27-05-2024) – Minister of Labour and Social Security, Brenda Tambatamba, spearheaded the commencement of the first Tripartite Consultative Labour Council (TCLC) meeting of 2024 today. The gathering, bringing together representatives from the government, employers, and workers, is poised to address critical matters affecting the national labor market.

A focal point of the meeting is the revision of the National Pension Scheme Act No. 40 of 1996. This legislative review aims to enhance the country’s social security framework, ensuring its relevance and effectiveness in the face of evolving socio-economic dynamics.

Minister Tambatamba provided context to the discussions by tracing the historical trajectory of Zambia’s social security system, emphasizing recent reforms initiated by the UPND Government led by President Hakainde Hichilema. These reforms include the closure of obsolete ZNPF accounts, penalty rate reductions, and the introduction of pre-retirement pension benefits.

Noteworthy strides have already been made, including the operationalization of penalty waivers under the National Pension Scheme Authority (NAPSA), offering relief to employers grappling with economic challenges, notably exacerbated by drought effects.

Nevertheless, the Minister stressed the imperative for ongoing efforts to fortify the social security system, citing proposed amendments to the National Pension Scheme Act as pivotal. These amendments seek to plug existing gaps, streamline administrative processes, and bolster enforcement mechanisms for timely benefit disbursements.

Beyond pension reforms, the Ministry remains committed to engaging stakeholders in revising the Employment Code Act. Acknowledging concerns regarding contribution timeframes, the Ministry aims to facilitate a consultative process that accommodates diverse stakeholder viewpoints.

In a move signaling Zambia’s adherence to international labor standards, Cabinet has approved the submission of the International Labour Organization Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment for ratification by the National Assembly. This underscores the nation’s dedication to fostering safe and equitable work environments.

Amidst economic headwinds, collaborative endeavors are pivotal for recovery and growth. Recent debt restructuring agreements and strategic alliances, notably the Special Economic Zones projects with China, underscore the government’s proactive stance in revitalizing economic activity and fostering job creation.

Infrastructure investments, exemplified by projects like the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriage-way facilitated through public-private partnerships, are poised to yield significant employment opportunities, thereby bolstering Zambia’s socio-economic landscape.

As the TCLC convenes to deliberate on pressing labor market issues, stakeholders are primed to engage in constructive dialogue and collaborative decision-making, charting a path towards a more inclusive and resilient workforce in Zambia.

Minister Tambatamba concluded the opening session by formally declaring the Tripartite Consultative Labour Council meeting underway, setting the stage for robust deliberations and concerted action to shape the nation’s labor landscape.

Blake Mulala, President of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), expressed gratitude for discussions on the National Pensions Act but raised concerns about proposed changes to the Employment Code Act No. 3 of 2017. He opposed amendments, citing insufficient time since enactment and potential negative impacts on workers.

Mulala criticized the Public-Private Dialogue Forum for lacking worker representation and bias towards business interests. He emphasized collaboration between the government and trade unions to address challenges and promote sustainable development.

Minister Nicole commended Mulala’s dedication to fostering social dialogue and assured consideration of workers’ needs in policymaking. Directors General were praised for their work impacting the labor landscape.

Stakeholders called for accountability, transparency, and inclusivity in labor law discussions, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding workers’ rights and ensuring their participation.

The gathering concluded with a call for unity and collaboration to address labor sector challenges and pave the way for a prosperous future.

The Zambia Federation of Employers (ZFE) president Myra Ngoma emphasized the importance of protecting NAPSA’s role in national economic development and ensuring retirement security for employees.

With a commitment to transparency and inclusivity, participants expressed optimism for productive deliberations. The outcome holds significant implications for workers’ welfare and Zambia’s economic trajectory.

Ngoma praised the consultative process surrounding proposed amendments to the National Pension Scheme (NAPSA) Act.

The session, chaired by the Honorable Minister, marked the culmination of extensive consultations, ensuring comprehensive input from stakeholders, including the Zambia Federation of Employers (ZFE) membership.

NAPSA management, in collaboration with the ZFE Secretariat, held consultative meetings with employers to gather feedback on contentious proposals, including debt attachment and penalties for non-compliance. Employers lauded NAPSA’s commitment to transparency and engagement throughout the process.

The consultative process aligns with ongoing efforts to review the Employment Code Act No. 3 of 2019, highlighting the government’s commitment to inclusive policy-making. Employers emphasized the significance of contributory pension schemes like NAPSA in fostering economic growth and safeguarding worker welfare.

She highlighted NAPSA’s role in providing financial security for retirees and pledged commitment to its effective management. The session concluded with a call for collaboration in shaping policies that promote social and economic well-being.

Weillingtone Chibebe, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Country Director for Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique, has emphasized the critical importance of social dialogue and robust industrial relations in addressing the socio-economic challenges faced by Zambia.

Speaking at the Tripartite Consultative Labour Council (TCLC) meeting today, Chibebe highlighted the need for inclusive economic growth and the protection of workers’ rights to ensure sustainable development.

Chibebe reiterated that effective social dialogue among governments, employers, and workers’ organizations is essential for promoting social justice, improving wages and working conditions, and fostering sustainable enterprises. He stressed the urgency of addressing inequalities and ensuring decent work for all amid increasing working poverty, child labor, youth unemployment, and informal work.

The TCLC meeting included a review of the National Pension Scheme Act No. 40 of 1996. Chibebe underscored that social security is a fundamental human right, vital for ensuring a life of health and dignity. Since Zambia’s early independence, the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention of 1952 has guided the development of its social protection systems. However, workers in the informal economy remain largely uncovered.

Chibebe acknowledged the Zambian government’s efforts to extend social protection coverage to informal sector workers, including domestic workers, bus and taxi drivers, sawmillers, small-scale farmers, marketeers, and traders. This includes signing memorandums of understanding with informal sector associations and implementing the Social Protection for Informal and Rural Economy Workers (SPIREWORK) program.

Chibebe emphasized the uncertain path of socio-economic recovery and the crucial role of enhanced social protection spending. He highlighted that the TCLC meeting serves as a reminder of the importance of investing in social protection for all Zambians, aiming to create a more resilient and inclusive labor market.

Chibebe wished the TCLC members a productive meeting, expressing hope that their deliberations would contribute to promoting decent work and supporting Zambia’s labor market amid ongoing challenges.

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