The industrial relations court in Zambia from 1971 to 2017: a study of the evolution of an institution of industrial relations

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Nyundo, Steven
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University of Zambia
Labour courts fulfill important functions for the justice system of a country. In the post Second World War, scholars and jurists advanced different reasons why industrial relations matters should be removed from being heard by the ordinary courts of law and be transferred to specialized institutions, such as, labour courts and industrial tribunals. Similarly, in Zambia the Industrial Relations Court (IRC), now a division of the High Court following the Constitution Amendment of 2016, was established in 1971 as an institution to resolve industrial relations matters or cases in a simpler, speedier, cheaper and informal manner. This study is about the evolution of the IRC as an institution of industrial relations in Zambia. Emphasis is on the composition and jurisdiction of the IRC which has evolved overtime. In this study, mixed methods research approach was used. Doctrinal legal research method was applied and secondary data was collected from journal articles and books on industrial relations. In addition, primary data was collected from stakeholders, such as trade unions, employers‟ organisations and government institutions using interviews and questionnaires. Content analysis was used to analyse the primary data (qualitative). This study has established that the tripartite composition of the Court in Zambia was consistent from its inception in 1971 to 2016. However, under the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act of 2016 the composition of the Court is unipartite. With regard to jurisdiction, like many countries of the world, the IRC in Zambia generally addresses matters within the scope of worker- employer relations. Further, it has been observed that the Court has had positive impact on industrial relations matters. For example, the Court can intervene and enforce decisions on management which appear reluctant to attend to employees‟ reasonable demands. In addition, the Court cannot be restrained from going behind reasons advanced for termination of employment in order to redress any real injustices discovered. On the basis of the findings of this study, it is recommended that the tripartite composition of the Court be reinstated; the judges of the IRC as a division of the High Court be exempted from the requirement to sit robed when hearing cases; that legislation be enacted to prescribe the jurisdiction, powers and sittings of the IRC in conformity with the provisions of Article 120(3)(b) of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act, 2016. In line with the practice in other countries the Zambian government may consider establishing an Employment Appeal Court (EAC) with exclusive jurisdiction to hear appeals from the IRC on questions of law or mixed law and fact. Key words: Industrial relations, institution, evolution, tripartite, unipartite
Industrial Relations Court--Zambia