Labour Court fees hike riles Zim unions

Barred from justice: new labour court fees are too high for workers to gain access. Photo by Christopher Mahove

Labour Court fees are almost equivalent to the minimum wage which means that the majority of workers can’t afford to pay them.

Trade unions in Zimbabwe have condemned the government for approving new labour court fees which they say are exorbitant and deny aggrieved workers access to justice.

Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi, announced the new fees last Friday when he gazetted Statutory Instrument 213 of 20, cited as the Labour Court (Fees) rules.

Under the new rules, a court application will now cost ZWL1,000, the same amount one will pay for an application for review, for an order to show cause or a disposal order. A chamber application other than for an incidental order to other proceedings will also cost ZWL1,000.

An application for condonation or extension of time will now cost ZWL1,500 while affixing the seal of the court to a document will now cost ZWL2,000.

Trade unionists, however, speaking in separate interviews with Elitsha said the new fees mean that ordinary workers will no longer be able to approach the courts as the new fees make justice a right they cannot afford.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) acting legal adviser, Fiona Magaya, said the fees were beyond the reach of most workers, adding the labour body had since approached the Judicial Services Commission.

“Workers’ minimum wage has been placed at ZWL2,500 and yet the fees are ranging up to ZWL2,000. The people approaching courts would have been fired or suspended without pay; how will they manage such high costs in this economy? The new fees are blocking workers from accessing justice,” she said.

Jokoniah Mawopa, a paralegal officer, told Elitsha that the new fees hurt poor workers more: “Justice has been sold to those who have resources [and] unfortunately the poor worker who toils to produce is the one who now suffers.”

His sentiments were echoed by Toindepi Dure, of the Zimbabwe Domestic Workers Union. “How can government approve court fees which are above the domestic workers’ wages and expect them to access the justice system? Workers are vindicated to demand payment of their salaries in US dollars,” he said.

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