The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: No Pay Rise for Civil Servants

GOVERNMENT has failed to effect the 5,5 percent inflation-related salary increment it promised to award civil servants this month. In his 2013 National Budget last year, Finance Minister Tendai Biti said the workers would get an inflation-related salary increment this month.

However, soldiers received their salaries on Thursday without any increment.

Most civil servants got their January pay slips showing no salary adjustment.

Government said it was difficult to update civil servants on salaries and conditions of service because there was no one legally representing them.

The term of office for the Apex Council, a body that represents civil servants in salary negotiations with Government, expired in February last year.

Since then, the body has been embroiled in a leadership dispute and last week it wrote to Government imploring it to recognise the old Apex Council led by its immediate-past chairperson Mrs Tendai Chikowore to spearhead salary negotiations.

Acting Public Service Secretary Mr Rodgers Sisimayi yesterday said salaries and conditions of service would not be communicated through the media and the Apex Council should reconstitute itself.

He said Government lawyers were assessing if it was possible to engage the old committee.

"We acknowledge receipt of their letter requesting that we engage the old committee. We are looking at the legal implications of such a move and we will notify them in due course what we would have resolved," he said.

"The problem is that the Apex Council has failed to come up with a new leadership since last year yet salaries and updates are announced through a platform called the National Joint Negotiating Council.

"This is a platform that brings to the negotiating table workers side and Government negotiators, but as it stands, there is no way Government can communicate."

However, Mr Sisimayi declined to comment on why Government had not effected the increment.

College Lecturers Association of Zimbabwe president Mr David Dzatsunga yesterday said civil servants unions would announce their next course of action after they meet on Tuesday.

"This is an insult and Government is setting a terrible precedent," he said.

"It means we are never taken seriously, but what they should know is that some unions are mobilising their members for a possible industrial action."

Mrs Chikowore, who is the Zimbabwe Teachers Association president, said by not effecting the increment, Government could have taken advantage of the squabbles.

"There is a breakdown of social dialogue and they might have seen our weaknesses and decided to go quiet," she said.

"We are going to meet and make sure we unite as we move forward."

Minister Biti said the 5,5 percent inflation-related increment would push the civil service wage bill to US$2,6 billion including grant-aided institutions.

This is about 68 percent of the total expenditure.

Last year's wage bill stood at US$1,4 billion.

The lowest paid Government employee is getting US$296 per month while the poverty datum line is over US$600. Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe said the move by Government was "demoralising".

"Most of our members opened schools anticipating that something would come up and obviously morale will be down on hearing that there is nothing for them.

"We are going to bury our petty differences on Tuesday and move forward as a united force in pressing for improved salaries," he said.

Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary general Mr Raymond Majongwe ruled out possibilities of getting a backdated salary increment from Government.

"This will never happen with this inclusive Government," he said.

"To them the month of January is gone and they are focusing on February as we move towards general elections. Somebody out there is pushing us to go and strike and this is one issue we will put into consideration come Tuesday."

The workers have been agitating for a salary increment since the formation of the inclusive Government in 2009, 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.

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