National Assembly defers vote on employment amendments | 14 May 2020
A majority in the National Assembly yesterday voted to adjourn debate on amendments to the Employment Act proposed by the executive to protect employees from the impact of COVID-19.
Nineteen members of the National Assembly gave their support to the motion tabled by opposition chief whip, Jean-François Ferrari, to defer the debate to next week’s parliamentary session.
Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) MNAs strongly felt that the executive should undertake further discussions with the private sector and trade union representatives in order to devise a more balanced bill.
The main point of contention was that the amendments to the Employment Act greatly favour the employees, leaving employers in the private sector powerless in certain aspects.
In his intervention, Honourable Ferrari highlighted that both sides need equal protection because employers cannot exist without their employees and vice versa.
The Employment (Amendment) Bill 2020 was presented to the National Assembly by the Minister for Employment, Immigration and Civil Status Myriam Telemaque yesterday with the aim of bringing the amended law into force as soon as possible.
The bill sought to prohibit the deferment of payment of wages or the reduction of wages of an employee without the approval of a competent officer from the employment department. If it had been approved, it would have become illegal to delay or slash someone’s salary, even with their consent, without undertaking the proper procedures.
It further sought to suspend the right of an employer to initiate negotiation procedures to make their Seychellois worker redundant until June 30, 2020. This amendment is not applicable to expatriate workers who can be made redundant during this period.
Hon. Ferrari nonetheless observed that the government has not fully committed to its initial announcement to guarantee the salaries of all employees in the private sector and therefore cannot legislate to force employers to keep their staff on if they are not presently financially viable.
On the other hand, the majority of United Seychelles (US) MNAs were appreciative of the bill’s efforts to protect employees and avoid mass redundancies during this difficult period.
“LDS is failing Seychellois workers because these workers are uncertain of what will happen to them […] some are being threatened with layoffs. This bill is in line with a report on COVID-19 by the International Labour Organisation (ILO),” US MNA for Pointe Larue, Jude Valmont, stated.
Much like most countries across the world, Seychelles’ economy has been adversely impacted and this rings especially true for the tourism sector.
With 19 votes in favour of Hon. Ferrari’s motion, Minister Telemaque said that she “brought this bill in good faith and I regret the position of the majority in the National Assembly. It is not true that we did not look at both sides of the issue; the ministry consulted with the private sector and union representatives before the bill was conceived”.
Minister Telemaque noted that her ministry’s engagement with these stakeholders span from early April up to last week and these discussions have allowed both the ministry and the stakeholders, such as the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) and Seychelles Hotel and Tourism Association (SHTA), to come to certain compromises.
Following the vote to defer the motion, Speaker Nicholas Prea stated that the National Assembly will be dealing with the bill in its next session on Tuesday, May 19 and Hon. Ferrari stated that the MNAs are hoping to engage with the relevant stakeholders during a meeting on Monday.