9 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Silence On Pay Deal Riles Civil Servants

GOVERNMENT has remained mum on the precise increment it will award civil servants this year, forcing the workers to mull an industrial action. Presenting the 2013 National Budget, Finance Minister Tendai Biti said Government would award civil servants an inflation-based salary increase this year, but the employer has remained silent on the actual figures.

Civil servants' unions yesterday said with a few days to go before the next pay date, there was no communication from Government on salary issues.

They said they would never accept imposed figures.

The workers said they wrote to Public Service Minister Lucia Matibenga last week requesting a meeting with Government negotiators, but unions said they had not yet received a response.

Government salaries are traditionally announced under the National Joint Negotiating Council, a platform that brings to the negotiating table workers and Government negotiators.

Minister Matibenga yesterday declined comment.

However, Acting Public Service Commission Secretary Mr Rodgers Sisimayi said: "The issue of unbundling is handled by the employer and it is the Public Service Commission which knows the actual amount that will be paid to the workers."

Civil servants are demanding salaries in line with the poverty datum line.

The least-paid Government employee is getting US$296 while the PDL is more than US$600.

Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe president Mr Takavafira Zhou said they were mobilising their members for a strike in case Government fails to meet their demands.

"No one can fully commit himself to work when he does not know how much he earns.

"What we want for the meantime is to be told the inflation-related salary increment such that we know where we stand."

The country has an annual inflation rate of less than 5 percent.

Mr Zhou said Government should not impose salaries on them without negotiations.

"We used to know our salary adjustments through the NJNC, but now we confirm this on the pay date or on seeing our pay slips," he said.

"We are ready to stop work once we know that the salaries we get are not in line with the poverty datum line."

Zimbabwe Teachers' Association president Mrs Tendai Chikowore said Government should urgently convene a meeting with the workers.

"There is no communication, but what our constituents need at the moment is to know what is in store for them.

"We are disgruntled and it is better for Government to urgently address our issues rather than surprise us on the pay day."

Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe chief executive Mr Manuel Nyawo said civil servants would soon regroup to map the way forward.

"The obtaining situation is not benefiting us and we are ready to fight to the end.

"We are going to consult with other unions before taking action because we need a united front as we fight for our bread and butter issues."

College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe president Mr David Dzatsunga said: "We are at the moment consulting our membership. We cannot continue with a situation where people are concerned with their political fighting and do not even care about our welfare."

The workers have been agitating for a salary increment since the formation of the inclusive Government without success.

In January last year, civil servants went on a five-day strike that resulted in the disruption of work in the public service.

The strike was called off after Government announced that it had reviewed civil servants' housing and transport allowances, while the basic salary remained unchanged.

However, the move was rejected by the Apex Council, which represents all the civil servants bodies.

Government has always argued that it does not have enough money to award salary increases to its workers.

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